Incredible picture of polar bear snoozing atop an iceberg is a winner

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Nima Sarikhani/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

AS MIDNIGHT approaches in Svalbard, a young polar bear climbs onto an iceberg and carves himself a makeshift bed before falling asleep. This serene moment, capturing the essence of Earth’s fragility, was taken by Nima Sarikhani, who won this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award, which is decided by public vote.

Sarikhani, from the UK, spent three days searching Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the hope of catching a glimpse of these iconic Arctic animals. He was finally rewarded with the sight of both an older and younger male after his expedition vessel decided to change course. Sarikhani seized the chance to snap the younger bear dozing off on the iceberg – a scene that not only evokes the bond between an animal and its habitat, but also the need to act on global challenges like climate change and habitat loss.

These days, the sight of a lone polar bear on melting ice is a familiar symbol of the impact of climate change. But that is for a good reason: global warming is having a particularly rapid effect in the Arctic, which is heating up at a rate triple that of the average around the world. Among those hardest hit are these bears, which are increasingly threatened by the reduction in sea ice cover that they rely on to hunt and raise young.

Though his shot is intended to stir emotion in those who see it, Sarikhani is optimistic that it will ultimately inspire hope that, with the right actions, it isn’t too late for polar bears. The image will be displayed in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London, along with the competition’s four runners up, until 30 June.


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