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Finalist: Roller rider- Lakshitha Karunarathna, Sri Lanka

Lakshitha was on safari in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, when he spotted an unusual sight – a lilac-breasted roller riding a zebra. Normally they prefer to perch high up in the foliage, but this roller spent an hour or more riding around and enjoying the occasional insect meal. Lakshitha waited for the surrounding zebras to form the perfect background before taking this tight crop. (Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Rescued gorilla's adorable hug wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize

A heart-warming image of a gentle moment between a gorilla and one of her rescuers is the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award.

Almost 20,000 nature fans around the world voted, and Canadian photographer Jo-Anne McArthur’s shot, Pikin and Appolinaire, emerged as the favourite.

The image was chosen from a shortlist of 24, selected by the Natural History Museum from almost 50,000 entries.

Jo-Anne said: ‘I’m so thankful that this image resonated with people and I hope it might inspire us all to care a little bit more about animals.

‘No act of compassion towards them is ever too small. I regularly document the cruelties animals endure at our hands, but sometimes I bear witness to stories of rescue, hope and redemption. Such is the case with the story of Pikin and Appolinaire, a beautiful moment between friends.’

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The picture will be showcased in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London until it closes on 28 May.

Director of the Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon, said:  ‘Jo-Anne’s inspirational image is a symbol of humanity’s power to protect the world’s most vulnerable species and shape a more sustainable future for life on our planet.

‘Photographs like Jo-Anne’s are a reminder that we can make a difference, and we all have a part to play in addressing our impact on the natural world.’

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