The winning photographs of this year’s 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition stood out from thousands of entries, from one capturing the fallen majesty of a polar bear, to an Indian snake curled around a branch.
However, it is French photographer Greg Lecoeur’s image of predators feasting during a sardine run that captured the judges’ attention, winning him the grand prize.
Comments by Greg Lecoeur
During the sardine migration along the Wild Coast of South Africa, millions of sardines are preyed upon by predators such as dolphins, marine birds, sharks, whales, penguins, sailfishes and sea lions.
The hunt begins with common dolphins that have developed special hunting techniques to create and drive fish to the surface.
In recent years, probably because of overfishing and climate change, the annual sardine run has become more and more unpredictable.
It took me two weeks to have the opportunity to witness and capture this marine predation.
Whether you love beautiful scenery or wildlife, Namibia may be the location to plan your next vacation. It is home to the Namib Desert, considered the oldest desert in the world, and is filled with national parks and reserves.
Some, including Etosha National Park, are dedicated to wildlife; others focus on beautiful landscapes.
Namib-Naukluft Park, the largest conservation area in Africa and the fourth largest in the world, features the country’s most famous and photogenic natural wonders: towering, 300-meter-tall red sand dunes, the largest in the world.
Namibia, one of the first countries in the world to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution, received the Gift to the Earth Award from the World Wildlife Fund this past October for conservation acheivements.
Large herbivores such as elephants often seek out natural mineral deposits such as rocks and soil to supplement their dietary intake of sodium whenever the mineral is not obtained in adequate quantities from woody plants and natural water which elephants consume.
So it is not uncommon to find elephants devouring soil and licking rocks high in sodium content.
In Mount Elgon National Park on the Kenya-Uganda border, elephants have taken this activity a step further—they have learned to quarry sodium-rich rocks on the base of a 24-million-years-old extinct volcano called Mount Elgon.
Mount Elgon is believed to be the oldest extinct volcano in East Africa.
Because of its unusually large form—an 80 kilometer wide base and a peak that rises 3,000 meters from the surrounding plains— Mount Elgon doesn’t have the typical sharp rise of a volcanic mountain.
The rise is more gradual, and as the land rises the vegetation changes and so does the climate. The forest becomes thicker and air becomes chilled.
Many rare plants and animals seek shelter in the higher slopes of Mount Elgon to escape the heat of the plains.
The elephants prefer to stay in the lower slopes where there are a number of caves and salt is plenty.
These caves are quite voluminous, with up to 150 meters long, 60 meters wide, and some 10 meters high.
There is evidence that these caves have been artificially expanded by thousands of years of mining—not by humans, but by the pachyderms.