French underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta has been named Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 for his otherworldly image of a tri-spine horseshoe crab.
Titled The Golden Horseshoe, the photograph also captures a trio of golden trevallies fish and was selected from 49,957 entries from 95 countries.
The tri-spine horseshoe crab has survived for more than 100 million years but now faces habitat destruction and overfishing for food and for its blue blood, used in the development of vaccines. In the protected waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines, there is hope for its survival.
Chair of the jury Kathy Moran says, "To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing.
"We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered, and also critical to human health. This photo is luminescent."
Laurent, a marine biologist, is only the second photographer in the competition’s 59-year history to be awarded the Grand Title award twice, having also won in 2021.
All 19 category winners of the prestigious competition from London’s Natural History Museum were announced at a ceremony on 10 October 2023.
Among the winning images were:
Hippo Nursery by Mike Korostelev, from Russia, who won the Underwater category for an image of a hippopotamus and her two offspring resting in a clear-water lake in South Africa.
Last Gasp by Lennart Verheuvel, from the Netherlands, who won the Oceans: The Bigger Picture category for an image showing the final moments of a beached orca.
Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said, “Whilst inspiring absolute awe and wonder, this year’s winning images present compelling evidence of our impact on nature – both positive and negative. Global promises must shift to action to turn the tide on nature’s decline.”
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition featuring the awarded images will open on Friday 13 October 2023 at the Natural History Museum.
The exhibition will then tour the UK and internationally to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore and more. Winning photographers are also displayed online.