‘The moment’ by Yongqing Bao (China). Overall winner. Joint Winner 2019, Behavior: Mammals.
“It was early spring on the alpine meadowland of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, in China’s Qilian Mountains National Nature Reserve, and very cold. The marmot was hungry. It was still in its winter coat and not long out of its six-month, winter hibernation, spent deep underground with the rest of its colony of 30 or so. It had spotted the fox an hour earlier, and sounded the alarm to warn its companions to get back underground. But the fox itself hadn’t reacted and was still in the same position. So the marmot had ventured out of its burrow again to search for plants to graze on. The fox continued to lie still. Then suddenly she rushed forward. And with lightning reactions, Yongqing seized his shot. His fast exposure froze the attack. The intensity of life and death was written on their faces – the predator mid-move, her long canines revealed, and the terrified prey, forepaw outstretched, with long claws adapted for digging, not fighting. Such predator-prey interaction is part of the natural ecology of the plateau ecosystem, where rodents, in particular the plateau pikas (smaller than marmots), are keystone species. Not only are they the main prey for foxes and nearly all the other predators, they are key to the health of the grassland, digging burrows that also provide homes for many small animals including birds, lizards and insects, and creating microhabitats that increase the diversity of plant species and therefore the richness of the meadows.”
Canon EOS-1D X + 800mm f5.6 lens; 1/2500 sec at f5.6 (+0.67 e/v); ISO 640; Manfrotto carbon-fibre tripod + 509HD head.
By Jessica Stewart on October 17, 2019
Tibetan fox rushes forward—teeth exposed—while the marmot it’s after screams out in surprise, undoubtedly knowing that its days are numbered. The standoff between these two animals, high in the alpine meadows of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has won photographer Yongqing Bao the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Developed and produced annually by the Natural History Museum, London, the 2019 contest saw over 48,000 entries from 100 countries across 19 categories.
While the standard of photography was high, it was Bao’s The Moment that ultimately won over the judges. His scene of horror—and humor—demonstrates just how tough life in the wild can be. Every emotion of the marmot can be felt, as it flings its paws in the air and opens its mouth to cry out. One can almost imagine its scream, as it attempts to warn the rest of the colony about the danger at hand. […]