During a mission to rescue a gorilla in Cameroon, photographer Jo-Anne McArthur captured a tender moment between the creature and her caretaker. In addition to having her photograph go viral across the Internet, McArthur has won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
Cameroon is located on the hinge of Africa, which is the central part of the continent along the western coast. Formerly under the colonial control of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, Cameroon gained its independence in 1960.
Gorillas in that part of Africa are often captured and then sold for bushmeat by poachers. When this happens, baby apes become orphans and are unable to fend for themselves. This typically results in death or being sold as pets.
A handful of animal rights organizations work to prevent such things from happening. In this case, a group called Ape Action Africa was in the process of relocating the animal as she was being transferred from one sanctuary to another. The gorilla, known as Pikin, was being transported in a vehicle with her rescuer Appolinaire Ndohoudou.
In the black-and-white photograph, Ndohoudou is seated in the backseat with Pikin atop his lap. She has her arms around him and looks content as she glances out the window. Meanwhile, Ndohoudou has a broad smile on his face as he stares lovingly at the majestic gorilla.
While McArthur’s photo is understandably a crowd-pleaser and she is most deserving of the award, she was up against strong competition. The other finalists included ones featuring a sloth, polar bears, humpback whales, and a lilac-breasted roller atop a zebra.
Ultimately, the voting public selected McArthur’s photograph as the winner. Perhaps what set her entry apart from the other finalists was the fact that it was the only one that featured a human alongside an animal.