18 beautiful and jarring wildlife photos that remind us nature is fierce

Nature, you're wild.
three images: a cheetah attacking a baby zebra, a gorilla mom holding her baby's hand, an orca swimming amongst fish
A selection of images from the 2024 World Nature Photography Awards.  L-R clockwise: Alexander Brackx, Michael Stavrakakis, Andy Schmid/World Nature Photography Awards

Nature’s brutality is as jarring as its beauty, and nowhere is that on display more than in the 2024 World Nature Photography Awards.

Photographer Alexander Brackx was in Kenya when he witnessed a wildlife encounter that will remain seared into his memory forever. “That morning, we decided to follow four cheetahs on the hunt,” Brackx said. “We followed them for hours. We passed herds of topis, gazelles, and zebras. We knew something was going to happen. When, five hours later, our Maasai guide whispered, ‘they are going for the zebras,’ I was convinced they would attack the topis or gazelles dotted across the valley. Seconds later, the cheetahs burst into a small group of zebras. One cheetah ran towards us, clinging onto a foal. In those seconds, I took this picture of the mother zebra launching a last attempt to push her foal away from the attacking cheetah. She failed. I will remember those last seconds for the rest of my life.”

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The resulting photograph (seen below) took home first prize in the Behavior-Mammals category.

a cheetah pounces on a baby zebra as its mother tries to fight back
“Those last seconds.”
Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Image: Alexander Brackx/World Nature Photography Awards

Tracey Lund took top honors overall, being named World Nature Photographer of the Year for her underwater image of two gannets battling for a fish in the Shetland Islands. Lund’s riveting image also offers a reminder that capturing the perfect shot requires persistence, with Lund saying, “An unbelievable spectacle to witness, let alone photograph. I took 1800 images on that day but only had 2 that I could use.”

All the honored photographs from this year’s competition are also available to purchase as wall art.

Two gannets under the water fighting for a fish
“Underwater Gannets.”
Location: Shetland Islands. Image: Tracey Lund/World Nature Photography Awards
“Head Massage.”
Location: Galapagos Islands. Image: John Seagar/World Nature Photography Awards
A dead mule deer guarded by a bobcat
Location: Yellowstone National Park, USA. Image: Elizabeth Yicheng Shen/World Nature Photography Awards
two horned goats jumping in the air on a desert plateau
“Living on the Edge.”
Location: Negev desert, Israel. Image: Amit Eshel/World Nature Photography Awards
Mother and infant gorilla holding hands
Location: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Image: Michael Stavrakakis/World Nature Photography Awards
a leopard stands over a reflection of itself in a still body of water
“Graceful Turn.”
Location: East Rift Valley, Kenya. Image: Richard Li/World Nature Photography Awards
An orca splitting a herring bait ball
“Crowd Control.”
Location: Skjervøy, Norway. Image: Andy Schmid/World Nature Photography Awards
Yellow-billed oxpecker sitting on an African water buffalo
“Oxpecker and Water Buffalo.”
Location: Kenya. Image: Lakshitha Karunarathhna/World Nature Photography Awards
a seal cub holds a piece of plastic in its mouth while swimming underwater
“The Dangerous Toy.”
Location: Coronado Islands, Baja California, Mexico. Image: Celia Kujala/World Nature Photography Awards
the silhouette of a praying mantis at night
“Not So Silent Hill.”
Location: Servia, Greece. Image: Panagiotis Dalagiorgos/World Nature Photography Awards
Mother elephant and calf
“Under a Mother’s Guidance.”
Location: Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Image: Tom Way/World Nature Photography Awards
a lynx jumping through the snow
“Lynx Pounce.”
Location: Canada. Image: Thomas Vijayan/World Nature Photography Awards
a green and blue wasp on a stick against a red backdrop
“Cuckoo Wasp.”
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Image: Kevin Blackwell/World Nature Photography Awards
A black frogfish with blue-ish eyes
“Anger Fish.”
Location: Kurnell, NSW, Australia. Image: Nicolas Remy/World Nature Photography Awards
fox stands amongst pile of bricks
“Among Bricks.”
Location: Lucerne, Switzerland. Image: Roman Willi/World Nature Photography Awards
a young humback whale right under the waterline
“Young Humpback Playing.”
Location: Kingdom of Tonga. Image: Philip Hamilton/World Nature Photography Awards
a beaver on the shore with city lights behind it
“Budapest Beaver.”
Location: Budapest, Hungary. Image: Ádám Horváth/World Nature Photography Awards