SVALBARD, Norway – A captivating image of a slumbering polar bear has emerged as a winner in a global wildlife photography contest, showcasing our planet's amazing tales of existence.
Nima Sarikhani's photograph 'Ice Bed' won the 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award with a record-breaking 75,000 votes, beating 24 other images.
"I am so (honored) to have won this year's People’s Choice award for Wildlife Photography of the Year, the most prestigious wildlife photography competition," he said. "This photograph has stirred strong emotions in many of those who have seen it."
Captured off the Svalbard archipelago, his photo depicts a male polar bear peacefully resting on a small iceberg.
Sarikhani said he spent three days onboard an expedition vessel searching for polar bears. However, thick fog around the Norwegian islands made it difficult for him to locate them.
His luck changed when he encountered a pair of bears - one younger and one older male - while navigating an area of sea ice. Just before midnight, the young male decided to take a rest.
In the light of the midnight sun, the bear used its powerful arms to create a bed on a small iceberg and dozed off, Sarikhani said.
"Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope," he added. "There is still time to fix the mess we have caused."
The Natural History Museum in London hosted the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59 competition, which received almost 50,000 entries from 95 countries.
"Nima’s breathtaking and poignant image allows us to see the beauty and fragility of our planet," said Dr. Douglas Gurr, the director of the museum in South Kensington. "His thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss."