Winner of the annual Wildlife Photography of the Year award is South African photographer, Brent Stirton, for his image titled “Memorial to a Species”.
The image is a tragic one, featuring a black rhino, a member of the critically endangered species, with its horn detached. Stirton took the photo while involved in an investigation into the illegal trade of the animal’s horns, a major issue that results in the slaughtering of these mammals for their incredible worth in underground international markets, with some Asian countries holding the horns to a higher street value than gold and cocaine.
After having witnessed over 30 scenes similar to the one captured in his photograph, Stirton expresses having lost some faith in humanity for the obscene cruelty carried out by poachers in their pursuit of profit.
Stirton tells BBC News, “For me to win this, for the jury to acknowledge this kind of picture – it’s illustrative that we are living in a different time now, that this is a real issue. The sixth age of extinction is a reality and rhinos are just one of many species that we are losing at a hugely accelerated rate and I am grateful that the jury would choose this image because it gives this issue another platform.”
The photojournalist accepted the Wildlife Photography of the Year award at a London’s Natural History Museum gala event, where his photo was praised for it’s blunt portrayal of the harsh realities at work in the world—a factor that appears in a number of Stirton’s photos (like the one shown below) and gets people talking about important and often difficult issues.