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A stark reminder of the damaging impact humans can have on local wildlife has won this year’s Photography competition.

The photo, taken by Tilaxan Tharmapalan in Sri Lanka, shows a herd of elephants rummaging for food on a garbage dump near a wildlife sanctuary.

Although authorities have recently banned dumping rubbish near these protected sites, elephants had been known to fall ill and die from rummaging and eating the waste.

PC01 Dangerous garbage eating elephants

Tilaxan said of receiving the award: “I am so honoured to be here in the company of other wonderful photographers, and grateful to be the recipient of this award.  

“I like to record the moments and stories and events of the people – including the nature that surrounds us at a particular time. I try to make these ordinary moments as extraordinary as possible.”

Here more from Tilaxan below:  

The winner of the RSB’s Young Photographer of the Year is Ashwin Geerthan, aged 14.

Ashwin’s winning entry captured a photo of cormorants perching on the poles left by fishermen waiting to spot fish in the water below – a more positive example of human and nature interacting.

PC08 Waiting

Ashwin said of receiving his award: “I was inspired to photograph the subjects of my photo after seeing how birds in Sri Lanka, the cormorants, were utilising man-made objects to their own advantage to catch fish.

“I like how the photograph depicts how the natural world is adapting to human influence – humans and nature do not have to be seen as foes but can be allies, that work together.

“I feel very proud to have won this prestigious award.”

Here more from Ashwin below:

Thousands of entries were submitted from across the globe for this year’s competition from amateur photographers of all ages.

This year’s competition theme was “Our Changing World,” with the judges looking for images that highlight the dynamic nature of wildlife, sometimes catalysed by human impact.

The RSB Photography Competition has two categories. The Young Photographer of the Year category is suitable for photographers below the age of 18, with a top prize of £500, whilst the Photographer of the Year category is open to adult photographers, who can win £1000.

The winners of the competition will be showcased in the online RSB Annual Awards Ceremony, as part of Biology Week 2020.

The competition was judged by Tim Harris from Nature Library and Bluegreen Pictures, Tom Hartman, program chair of MSc in Biological Photography and Imaging at the University of Nottingham, Alex Hyde, a natural history photographer and lecturer at the University of Nottingham and Linda Pitkin, an expert underwater photographer.

The runner up, highly commended and other shortlisted entries are below:

Photographer of the Year: runner-up


Title: The boundary of disaster

Photographer: Roberto Bueno

Location: Boundary between forest and land stripped of trees for agricultural use in Belize.

PC02 The boundary of disaster

This straight line represents the border between nature and the humanity. However, human impact like this can be seen all over the world with ecosystems going through huge, dramatic changes. 

Photographer of the Year: highly commended


Title: Observer

Photographer: Agata Boguszewska

Location: Richmond Park, London, UK

PC03 Observer

Three cyclists are watched by a young deer in Richmond Park.

Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: My shirt

Photographer: Hasan Baglar

Location: Nicosia, Cyprus

PC04 My shirt 

The grasshopper is moulting its exoskeleton. It will do this a number of times as it changes and grows during its lifetime.

Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: Young volunteers

Photographer: Froi Rivera

Location: Cavite, Philippines

PC05 Young volunteers 

The three volunteers are seen happy and content during their tree-planting activity.

Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: The olive journey

Photographer: Saurabh Chakraborty

Location: Rushikulya, Odisha, India

PC06 The olive journey 

Almost every year in Rushikhulya, Orissa, one of the most spectacular events in nature takes place.Thousands of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles come to this coastal region to lay eggs.

Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: Greenhouse

Photographer: Jonathan Jimenez (Jonk)

Location: Gant, Belgium

PC07 Greenhouse

The image of an abandoned nineteenth century greenhouse shows how nature can reclaim and transform structures left by humans.

Young Photographer of the Year: runner-up


Title: The world is a good place

Photographer: Charlotte Bean

Location: Brookmans Park, England, UK

PC09 The world is a good place

We tend to focus on the bad changes that occur in the world around us, yet so much positivity can be found if we look in the right places. Here, the young goslings are making the first steps into their world.

Young Photographer of the Year: highly commended


Title: End of a thousand dreams

Photographer: Saptarshi Gayen

Location: Singur, Hooghly, West Bengal, India

PC10 End of a thousand dreams

As extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, it is important to recognise the impact they have not just on humans but also on the rest of nature. Two baby baya weaver (Ploceus philippinus) pictured here had fallen out of their nest and died following a cyclone.

Young Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: Silent noon

Photographer: Rosie Tarboton

Location: Claygate, Surrey, UK

PC11 Silent noon

Changes occur all the time in nature – it is a part of every organism’s life cycle. This is very clearly seen in creatures such as dragonflies who undergo metamorphosis, as they completely transform during their lifetime as they grow.

Young Photographer of the Year: shortlisted


Title: Ischmeer glacier

Photographer: Rory Stringer

Location: Ischmeer glacier, Swiss Alps

PC12 Ischmeer glacier

In the 1800s the entire gorge was covered in ice. Today, the glacier has retreated so much it has resulted in many problems such as unstable rock.

The world around us continues to change – who knows what things will look like in years to come.