See the Pictures That Earned Nat Geo Photographers Top Awards

A prestigious photo contest honoured three National Geographic photographers for their work photographing rhinos, pandas, and a 3,000-mile-long train trip.

Three National Geographic photographers were recognised by the World Press Photo's 60th annual photography contest, a competition that honours the best in journalistic and documentary photography each year.

Photographer Brent Stirton, on assignment for National Geographic's story, "Inside the Deadly Rhino Trade", won first place in the "nature" category for his work photographing illegal rhino horn trading in southern and eastern Africa. Stirton's photographs exposed the graphic and harrowing ways the animals are poached and their horns removed.

Two rhino poachers, one 19, the other 28 years old, apprehended by an anti-poaching team in Mozambique close to Kruger National Park border. They are seen waiting to be processed in the local jail. After a three-day chase, they were caught in a roadblock and the rifle seized shortly thereafter.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY REPORTAGE FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Dawie Groenewalt, South Africa's alleged rhino horn kingpin and the subject of a 6-year-old court case involving multiple charges related to illegal rhino horn theft and money laundering, amongst other charges. He is seen on his game farm in Polokwane, where he breeds high-end game for sale and hunting purposes.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY REPORTAGE FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Care For Wild Africa is a donor-run organisation that specialises in caring for wounded animals. They have a special focus on rhino and have taken in many rhino orphans from the poaching wars across South Africa at this time. Their latest orphan is Lulah, her mother was killed in Kruger National Park and when the rangers found her she was estimated to be one month old. Hyenas had attacked the tiny calf and chewed off her ears and parts of her nose, as well as a big bite off of her rear right leg.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY REPORTAGE FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Second place in the contest's "nature" category was awarded to photographer Ami Vitale for her images taken at a panda reserve in China. Featured in the story, "Pandas Get to Know Their Wild Side," her work documented as young bears, in serious decline in the wild, are raised by human parents (in panda outfits) as they develop the ability to survive in wild environments.

Ye Ye, a 16-year-old giant panda, lounges in a massive wild enclosure at a conservation center in Wolong Nature Reserve. Her 2-year-old cub, Hua Yan ("Pretty Girl") was released into the wild after two years of "panda training".
PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Seven-year-old giant panda Min Min had a baby girl at Bifengxia Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center in Sichuan Province, China. It was three long days and nights of waiting for her to give birth and the vets thought it was likely to be a still birth. A very healthy giant panda cub emerged with a loud scream.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Caretaker Li Feng cradles her precious charge by the window of Bifengxia’s panda nursery, the most popular stop for visitors touring the facilities. More than 400,000 people visit each year to glimpse and snap photos of China’s most beloved baby animals.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

In a large forested enclosure of the Wolong Reserve, panda keepers Ma Li and Liu Xiaoqiang listen for radio signals from a collared panda training to be released to the wild. Tracking can tell them how the cub is faring in the rougher terrain up the mountain.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Matthieu Paley was awarded third place in the category "daily life" for his images capturing passengers on one of the longest train routes in the world, a stretch from Hong Kong to the Xinjiang province of China, in all 3,000 miles. Paley captured the wildness of China's landscape and the diverse group of train passengers travelling through it. (Read more about Paley's experience in, "Travel 3,000 Miles Through China’s Wondrous Wild West.")

An Uyghur woman carries money in her stockings, a common practice. Uygur women, while Muslim, typically do not adhere to the conservative dress code that women in neighbouring countries follow. On this train from Kashgar, you see a lesser known side of China. Most of the passengers are Uyghur, a Chinese minority who live mostly in the west.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATTHIEU PALEY, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The annual competition awards winners for superior performance in eight different categories, including contemporary issues, general news, sports, people, and spot news. Judges this year selected 45 winners among 5,034 photographers, who collectively had submitted more than 80,000 photos. The 2017 winners represented 25 different countries.

The prize-winning photographs will be featured in a travelling exhibit later this year that will visit 45 countries. More information on how to visit these exhibitions can be found here.

Header Image: A black rhino bull is seen dead, poached for its horns less than 8 hours earlier at Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. It is suspected that the killers came from a local community approximately 5 kilometres away, entering the park illegally, shooting the rhino at a water hole with a high-powered, silenced hunting rifle. PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON, GETTY REPORTAGE FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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