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A picture of a Tibetan fox and a Himalayan marmot, locked in a dramatic yet amusing standoff, has earned Yongqing Bao the coveted Wildlife Photographer of the Year award 2019.
Bao - who was born and raised in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau area in China - captured the rare shot after staking out an alpine meadow for several hours. Eventually though he got the ultimate reward, capturing the precise moment in which a female fox pounced on an unsuspecting marmot in a bid to feed her three cubs.
Bao named the shot The Moment - presumably concluding it was a little more concise and artistic than The Moment a Tibetan Fox Scares The S*** Out of a Marmot.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London, and the chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox, described the winning picture as 'extraordinary'.
She said: "Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment. The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance.
"Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough, but to have captured such a powerful interaction between a Tibetan fox and a marmot - two species key to the ecology of this high-grassland region - is extraordinary."
Natural History Museum director Sir Michael Dixon said The Moment should serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving habitats and nature.
He said: "This compelling picture captures nature's ultimate challenge - its battle for survival. The area in which this was taken, often referred to as the 'third pole', because of the enormous water reserves held by its ice fields, is under threat from dramatic temperature rises like those seen in the Arctic.
"At a time when precious habitats are facing increasing climate pressures, seeing these fleeting yet fascinating moments reminds us of what we need to protect."
But while Bao's snap is undeniably a worthy winner, many other entrants have every right to feel snubbed, given how impressive their efforts were.
Audun Rikardsen, for example, had to wait three years to capture a remarkable shot of a golden eagle landing on a branch which he had strategically placed in the mountains by a motion-activated camera.
Meanwhile, Stefan Christmann had to brave freezing conditions to photograph more than 5,000 male Emperor penguins huddling for warmth in front of the Ekström Ice Shelf in East Antarctica.
If you reckon you're a budding Yongqing Bao, then entries for the 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year award open on Monday.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London
Featured Image Credit: Yongqing Bao/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
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