It started with nearly 50,000 entries from 95 countries, but the winners of this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, presented by the Natural History Museum London, are finally here. And the 2016 winner's circle reflects both the beauty of the natural world and the serious threats facing it, from human-wildlife conflict to illegal trade.

It took photographer Tim Laman three days in the trees to capture this top-prize image of an orangutan's ascent above the canopy. With the iconic red apes losing habitat at an alarming rate, Laman's photograph is a timely call to action.
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Grand Title winner. Image: Tim Laman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

"Protecting their remaining habitat is critical for orangutans to survive," he says. "If we want to preserve a great ape that retains its vast culturally transmitted knowledge of how to survive in the rainforest and the full richness of wild orangutan behaviour, then we need to protect orangutans in the wild, now."

The image will join the top 100 in this year's museum exhibition, before setting off on an international tour. Illegal logging for the palm oil industry remains the greatest threat to orangutan survival, and Laman hopes his photograph will give the apes' plight some much-needed attention. 

"Wildlife Photographer of the Year highlights some of the big questions for society and the environment," adds NHM London director Sir Michael Dixon. "How can we protect biodiversity? Can we learn to live in harmony with nature? The winning images touch our hearts, and challenge us to think differently about the natural world." 

Another contest winner highlights the threat posed by illegal trade with this hard-hitting image of some 4,000 poached pangolins, seized en route to China and Vietnam.
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Wildlife Photojournalist single image winner. Nothing could have prepared photographer Paul Hilton for this sight. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, and these mostly Sunda pangolins were recovered thanks to a joint operation between Indonesian police and the World Conservation Society. The contraband – valued at $1.8 million on the black market – was found hidden in a shipping container. Also seized were 96 live pangolins (destined to be force-fed to increase their size), along with 100 kilos (220 pounds) of pangolin scales. Image: Paul Hilton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Urban winner. At night, in the Aarey Milk Colony in a suburb of Mumbai bordering Sanjay Gandhi National Park, leopards slip ghost-like through the maze of alleys, looking for food (especially stray dogs). The Warli people living in the area respect the big cats. Despite close encounters and occasional attacks (a particular spate coinciding with the relocation of leopards from other areas into the park), the cats are an accepted part of the lives and culture of these communites, seen in the traditional paintings that decorate the walls of local homes. Image: Nayan Khanolkar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Underwater winner. For several days each month, coinciding with the full moon, thousands of twospot red snappers gather to spawn around Palau in the western Pacific Ocean. The action is intense as the fish fill the water with sperm and eggs, and predators arrive to take advantage of the bounty. Having read about the spectacle, Tony Wu couldn't understand why there were so few photos of it – until he hit the water there for the first time in 2012. The currents were unrelenting – ideal for eggs to be swept swiftly away ... but a struggle for anyone wanting to keep up with the fastmoving fish. His first attempt failed, but he has returned every year to have another go. Image: Tony Wu/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Young grand title winner. Sixteen-year-old Gideon Knight from the UK won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for his image The moon and the crow. "If an image could create a poem, it would be like this. It should certainly inspire a few lines," says Lewis Blackwell, Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury. Image: Gideon Knight/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Impressions winner. As soon as photographer Luis Javier Sandoval slipped into the water, the curious young California sea lions swam over for a closer look. Arriving the night before on the island of Espíritu Santo in the Gulf of California, Sandoval slept aboard his boat to be ready to dive at sunrise. One of the pups dived down, swimming gracefully with its strong fore-flippers. It grabbed a starfish from the bottom and started throwing it to the human diver. "I love the way sea lions interact with divers and how smart they are," he says. Image: Luis Javier Sandoval/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Plants winner. Pollen-producing catkins open early in the year, and release huge amounts of pollen to be carried away by the wind. And now recent research suggests that bees may also play a role. Catkins are an important source of pollen for early bees and have a beefriendly structure, while the red colour of the female flowers may entice insects to land on them. Image: Valter Binotto/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Birds winner. These Indian rose-ringed parakeets were not happy. They had returned to their roosting and nesting hole high up in a tree in India's Keoladeo National Park (also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) to find that a Bengal monitor lizard had taken up residence. The birds immediately set about trying to evict the squatter. They bit the monitor lizard's tail, hanging on for a couple of seconds at a time, until it retreated into the hole. They would then harass it when it tried to come out to bask. This went on for two days. Image: Ganesh H. Shankar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Detail winner. The pristine white sand of Brazil's Lençóis Maranhenses National Park offers a blank canvas to the rain. In the dry season, sand from the coast is blown by powerful Atlantic winds as far as 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland, sculpting a vast expanse of crescent-shaped dunes up to 40 metres (130 feet) high. With the onset of the rains, the magic begins. An impermeable layer beneath the sand allows water to collect in the dune valleys, forming thousands of transient lagoons, some more than 90 metres (295 feet) long. Bacteria and algae tint the clear water in countless shades of green and blue, while streams carrying sediment from the distant rainforest make their mark with browns and blacks. Patterns appear as the water evaporates, leaving behind organic remains. Image: Rudi Sebastian/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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Black and white winner. Every day in early spring, Mats walked in the forest near his home in Bashult, southern Sweden, enjoying the company of a pair of Eurasian pygmy owls – until the night he found one of them lying dead on the forest floor. Pygmy owls, with their distinctive rounded heads and lack of ear tufts, are the smallest owls in Europe, barely 19 centimetres (7½ inches) long, though with large feet that enable them to carry prey almost as big as themselves. Nesting in tree cavities, they form pair bonds in autumn that last through to spring and sometimes for more than one breeding season. "The owl’s resting posture reflected my sadness for its lost companion," recalls Mats. Image: Mats Andersson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Top header image: Nayan Khanolkar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year