A 17-year-old has won this year’s RSPCA Young Photographer Awards with a picture of the preserved body of tortoise Lonesome George, the last of his kind.
Lucy Hutton, from Northumberland, had only six minutes to snap the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise, whose death marked the final extinction of his species.
Young photographers aged up to 18 were invited to capture the animal kingdom on camera or on a mobile device for this year’s awards.
Lucy beat 4,700 other photographs after entering ‘Solitario George’, as he is called in Spanish, into the new human impact on animals category.
Lonesome George is on display in a temperature-controlled room in the Charles Darwin Research Centre in the Galapagos.
Lucy said: “I am passionate about the conservation of endangered species and I believe that George’s body is a powerful reminder to humankind as to how our actions can be devastating to animals.
“It was quite a challenge to get this shot.
“I only had six minutes to get a photo without people in it, so just before we had to move on, I ran to the back of the room hoping to get the shot I’d imagined – and I did!”
The awards were blind-judged by a panel of experts in wildlife photography.
BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham who sat as one of the judges said: “The photo of Lonesome George really stood out to all of us as it was a very powerful winning image.
“It told the story of species extinction through the tragic tale of an iconic creature which is recognised across the world.
“Taken in black and white, and by someone so young really increased its impact.
“The picture was very graphic, beautifully composed and was a stark reminder of the impact that humans can have on the natural world.”
He added: “I’ve been judging the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards since they started.
“It’s exciting to see it move with the times, particularly with a new category this year showing the human impact on animals and the welcome return of a pets category.
“We’re also pleased that the Mobile Phone and Devices category continues, because as no separate camera is required, this has really opened up the competition to almost anyone.”
The winning images across nine categories, which included three different age groups, were announced during an awards ceremony hosted by Chris at the Tower of London.
The judges’ special mention was Millie Rodgers, an 11-year-old from Derbyshire, who won the under 12 mobile phone and devices category with a close-up of her eye beside the eye of her pet dog Willow.
Along with the special mention, Millie won the under 12 mobile phone and devices category.
Other winners included a grey cat with startling blue eyes taken by 15-year-old Tia Bromley from Kent, a dog leaping to catch a tennis ball in a park by 17-year-old Ollie Ross in Derbyshire, and a scorpion on scorched sand by 18-year-old Aimee Bristow from Nottingham.
And the youngest winner was 10 year old Thomas Easterbrook who took top prize in the under 12 category after snapping his shot, ‘majestic raven’.
Last year’s overall winner, Gideon Knight, from Essex, bagged top prize, runner-up and commended in both the 16 to 18 and portfolio categories as well as runner-up in the human impact on animals category with an image of a sea gull eating rubbish from a plastic bag.
The 18-year-old’s portfolio focused on birds in nature.
Sophie Bramall from the West Midlands came runner-up in the picture perfect cats category with an image of a pet cat enjoying a spray of water.
Will Jenkins, a 15-year-old from London, was commended for his photo of a brown bear scratching himself on a beach.
Host Chris added: “It’s nice to see so many creative photos of people’s pets and a range of wildlife in such a strong competition.
“It needs real imagination to make commonplace species interesting, showing that the photographer has been really innovative.
“The fantastic images we have seen this year range from creatures in the desert and pets at play to animals just getting on with their life in the wild.
“The competition is a great way for young people to go out and experience the environment around them.
“There are some beautiful pictures in this year’s winners’ gallery, with real talent shining through.
“This year’s entrants have been really creative and that is what we wanted to see.”
By Grainne Cuffe