This photo of rare monkeys in China won Dutchman Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize

Awareness is a critical first step towards the successful conservation of any species, says winner Marsel van Oosten of his image of rarely seen endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 7:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 7:20pm

A powerful image of a pair of rare golden snub-nosed monkeys seated in contemplation amid iridescent foliage in China has been awarded one of the most prestigious prizes in photography, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018.

The image, called “The Golden Couple,” was captured by Dutch photographer Marsel van Oosten in the Qinling Mountains of southwestern China – the endangered monkeys’ only habitat.

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Van Oosten said he was “both extremely proud and totally shocked” to have won the grand title in the contest, which is run by the Natural History Museum in London and is in its 54th year.

“It is a symbolic reminder of the beauty of nature and how impoverished we are becoming as nature is diminished. It is an artwork worthy of hanging in any gallery in the world,” said Roz Kidman Cox, the chair of the judging panel, of the winning image.

With no more than around 15,000 golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) surviving in fragmented populations across the mountains of central China, the primates are considered endangered. This is largely due to the continuing encroachment of people and the destruction and the fragmentation of the forests in which they live.

Found in temperate forests up to altitudes of 3,400 metres, they spend their days foraging in groups of up to 10 individuals, which in turn come together to form bands of as many as 600 monkeys.

Skye Meaker, 16, from South Africa, won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 with his image of a just-awakened leopard in Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve.

A new Lifetime Achievement Award went to Frans Lanting, a Dutch nature photographer based in Santa Cruz, California, “for his outstanding contribution to wildlife conservation over more than three decades”, the organisers said.

It is the latest accolade for Rotterdam-born Lanting, who in 2001 was made a Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark in the Netherlands for his conservation work.

The winning photos were chosen from more than 45,000 entries from 95 countries.