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STUNNING: The BEST wildlife photographs of the year!

Last updated on: December 7, 2012 20:13 IST

STUNNING: The BEST wildlife photographs of the year!

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Sanctuary Asia

We bring you the best pictures from Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Awards 2012. Text and Photographs courtesy Sanctuary Asia magazine.

Each year, Sanctuary Asia magazine recognises the best-in-the-field of wildlife conservation in an attempt to honour among others, the most talented wildlife photographers whose images underscore the increasing threat to living ecosystems and species.

First up we have this picture titled 'Mirrored Drongo' by Vinayak Parmar that won him the second prize.

An avid birder, the photographer observed the behaviour of this Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, for several days at a lake located 30 km. from Jamnagar, Gujarat. He then set up his tripod in the tall grasses at the edge of the lake and kept shooting images for hours on end, until he managed to get the one he was waiting for. In Parmar's words: "I was lucky to press the shutter at the exact moment before the drongo actually skimmed the water. The concentration in its eyes, the position of its wings, its open gape poised to snap up an insect and, of course, that reflection, all worked in tandem to gift me my perfect shot." And so say all of us!

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Image: Mirrored Drongo
Photographs: Vinayak Parmar

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Next up is this one called 'A Cloud of Pastors' by Ashvin Trivedi.

The coordinated aerobatic flocking display of birds has fascinated naturalists for centuries, and has often been compared to the shoaling conduct of fish. This incredibly graphic image reveals thousands of Rosy Starlings Sturnus roseus at daybreak at the Lakhota lake, Jamnagar, Gujarat. Ascending and descending in mesmerising waves, the large flock of birds, locally referred to as Vaiya, roost in public gardens in winter.

They migrate to eastern Europe when the April heat sets in, only to return again in August. Birds 'flock together' as protection from predation and their formations are determined by a combination of separation to avoid crowding individuals next to them; alignment, which prompts individuals to take their heading from birds on their left or right; and cohesion, which leads them to steer in the direction of birds in their immediate vicinity.

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Image: A Cloud of Pastors
Photographs: Ashvin Trivedi

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Shot by Shyam Ghate, this photograph is titled 'Elephantine Restraint'.

This magical image captures elephant life in the Corbett National Park more effectively than the proverbial 'thousand words' ever could. The elephant Elephas maximus herd had paused hesitantly at the edge of the Ramganga river, unsure of whether to cross because of a vehicle stationed on the opposite bank.

On a quiet hand signal from the photographer, who was in a vehicle on the same bank as the elephants, quite a distance from the elephant herd, the well-meaning driver on the opposite bank began reversing. The tactic backfired. The herd, with babies in tow, got spooked. One young female, in all the confusion, began charging the photographer's jeep!

What you see here is an effort by a more experienced matriarch to restrain the frightened female, using her trunk and her bulk to keep her with the herd. The dust, the lighting, the adrenaline, all combined to win this image a joint third prize.

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Image: Elephantine Restraint
Photographs: Shyam Ghate

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Next, we have this stunning picture titled 'Leopard Slumber' by Sudhir Shivram that won him the first prize.

The photographer spotted this leopard Panthera pardus with its kill up on the branches of a tree, the evening before this image was captured.

Leopards across the world tend to drag their kills up trees to evade more powerful predators such as tigers, or packs of wild dogs.

The photographer managed to capture some frames and then returned the next day to find the graceful, and full-stomached feline on the same perch, basking in the warm glow of the morning sun.

Sanctuary's judges unanimously agreed that the mood, lighting and the 'moment' merited Sudhir Shivram's nomination as Sanctuary's Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012.

Postscript: The sated leopard rested on its towering perch for 12 hours before disappearing into its emerald abode in the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarahole, Karnataka.

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Image: Leopard Slumber
Photographs: Sudhir Shivram

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This one shot by Baiju Patil is titled 'The Enchanted Lake'.

The image puts technology, aesthetics and natural history on display in a dramatic fashion. The photographer used a very basic waterproof SLR pack to shoot this; his first‐ever underwater image.

As he waited for the right moment, he says, the icy waters of Pangong Tso (long, narrow, enchanted lake in Ladakh) almost caused hypothermia to set in. But after a 30‐minute wait, the Brown‐headed Gulls Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus obliged him with a head-on image. "My guide and the locals thought I had lost my mind," he said, "but it was the experience of a lifetime and more than worth the pain!"

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Image: The Enchanted Lake
Photographs: Baiju Patil

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Next up is this image titled 'Young and Fearless' shot by a 14-year-old.

This young tigress Panthera Tigris was a fledgling hunter, and this was probably one of her first kills. However, the young predator's age belied her prowess. An enthralled Daanish Shastri, all of 14 years old, said she darted out at a nearby fawn with such speed that the chital nearer to his vehicle did not even realise she had launched an attack from the thicket to their left.

Chital Axis axis are among the primary prey of tigers, with hinds and fawns being more likely victims of predation than adult stags. In undisturbed, pristine forests, prey densities are generally higher and consequently predator populations are greater as well.

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Image: Young and Fearless
Photographs: Daanish Shastri

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Finally we have this amazing photograph, by Jagdeep Rajput aptly title 'Pegasus'.

This stunning image of a nilgai and a Sarus Crane spreading its wings instantly brought to mind the winged horse of Greek legend.

The nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus is a commonly seen antelope in central and northern India, as well as parts of Pakistan and Nepal. A habitat generalist, it avoids dense forests, but occupies open grasslands and the wetlands that are favoured by the Sarus Crane Grus antigone, the world's tallest flying bird with wingspans that can exceed 2.5 m.

The story of this image involves a nilgai that approached a Sarus Crane nest in which an egg had been laid. The photographer captured the image in the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, at the instant the bird was chasing the antelope away!

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Image: Pegasus


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