'Ice Bed', taken by Nima Sarikhani, was voted as the best from 25 shortlisted images for the Natural History Museum’s competition.
Mr Sarikhani had spent three days aboard an expedition vessel, searching for polar bears in the thick fog off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The ship changed course towards some sea ice, where it encountered two polar bears.
Just before midnight a young male polar bear clambered on to an iceberg, where it used its strong paws to carve itself a bed. Mr Sarikhani’s photograph captures the moment the polar bear fell asleep.
The image received the most votes from 25 photographs shortlisted by an international judging panel. Over 75,000 people voted for their favourite.
Mr Sarikhani said: “I am so honoured to have won this year's People’s Choice award for WPY, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition. This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it.
“Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused.”
Dr Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss."
There were also four entries that were named ‘Highly Commended’ in the competition.
These included Tzahi Finkelstein’s ‘The Happy Turtle’, which depicts a Balkan pond turtle and a northern banded groundling dragonfly, and Daniel Dencescu’s ‘Starling Murmuration’, which shows a murmuration which had formed the shape of a bird.
Mark Boyd’s ‘Shared Parenting’ photograph shows two lionesses grooming a cub in Kenya. Audun Rikarden’s ‘Aurora Jellies’ shows two moon jellyfish illuminated by aurora borealis in Norway.
Nima Sarikhani’s winning photograph, as well as the four Highly Commended entries, will be displayed online and in the Natural History Museum’s exhibition until 30 June 2024.
Images © Natural History Museum