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    Cool Best Wild Animal Photos of 2008 (National Geographic)

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    PHOTOS: Best Wild Animal Photos of 2008 Announced

    Stalking India's Hemis National Park, a snow leopard lives up to its name in U.S. photographer Steve Winter's award-winning National Geographic magazine image.

    On October 30, 2008, "Snowstorm Leopard" was named best overall photo in the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which is organized by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

    "This is the hardest story I have ever done because of the altitude and the steepness of the mountains," the U.S. photographer told National Geographic. "At night it was 30 below zero [Fahrenheit]."

    Over ten months Winter's 14 "camera traps" shot more than 30,000 frames in pursuit of the endangered cat. (See more snow leopard photos by Winter.)

    As few as 3,500 snow leopards remain in the wild.

    --James Owen
    —Photograph by Steve Winter/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Winner, "Underwater World" Category

    Man and whale size each other up in the winner of the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition's underwater category, announced on October 30, 2008.

    The photo was taken by Brian Skerry on assignment for National Geographic magazine off New Zealand's Auckland Islands, where a "pristine population" of southern right whales, in Skerry's words, was discovered only ten years ago (more right whale photos by Skerry).

    The U.S. photographer said he had deployed his assistant Mauricio Handler (pictured) as bait for this friendly 70-ton giant.

    "The whales were highly curious of us. Many of these animals had never seen a human before," Skerry told National Geographic News.

    —Photograph by Brian Skerry/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    One Earth Award

    A black colobus monkey has its fur singed in preparation for sale at an illegal bush-meat market in Gabon.

    The image won the One Earth Award, which "seeks to highlight the interaction between humans and the natural world," at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition on October 30, 2008.

    "They singe the fur off, then sell the animals naked but intact," U.K. photographer David Maitland explained.

    The shot was taken in Gabon's capital city, Libreville, where sea turtles, crocodiles, porcupines, antelopes, and other protected animals were openly on sale.

    "It was only afterwards that I realized how strong this image was," Maitland said. "It was very upsetting to be there."
    —Photograph by David Maitland/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Winner, "Animal Behavior: All Other Animals" Category

    An aptly named winner of the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, "Deadlock" was captured in the dead of night in a Belizean rain forest.

    U.K.-based David Maitland observed from midnight to 3 a.m. as a rare Morelet's tree frog doggedly refused to become supper for a cat-eyed snake--and still didn't see the conclusion.

    "I would love to have seen them go their separate ways, but I was exhausted," the photographer said. "The frog was all the time trying to pull the snake off, but the snake just wouldn't let go.

    "This frog is actually incredibly rare, which lends to the bizarre nature of the whole encounter," he said.

    Winner, "Animal Behavior: Mammals" Category
    —Photograph by David Maitland/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    French photographer Cyril Ruoso pursued the screams of hunting chimpanzees through dense forests in Tanzania's Gombe National Park--and captured this winner of the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, announced October 30, 2008, in London.

    The central and dominant figure, unwilling to share his half of a wild pig, is a 31-year-old male known as Frodo, lead hunter of his group.

    "Frodo is a warrior," Ruoso said. "He catches the prey 80 percent of the time." (Learn more about Frodo.)

    Such a large catch is rare for Gombe's chimpanzees, which usually target small monkeys, Ruoso said. (See more photos of Gombe chimps.)
    —Photograph by Cyril Ruoso/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Winner, "Animal Portraits" Category

    "He would jump all over me, then run away," said Stefano Unterthiner of the black-crested macaque in this winning photo from the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. "He was always hanging around."

    Unterthiner followed a group of the monkeys on Indonesia's Sulawesi island for six weeks, always wearing the same clothes, so they would recognize him.

    The rare animals spend 99 percent of their time foraging in the forest and rarely venture along the shore, according to Unterthiner. Until recently the local tradition was to eat them for Christmas dinner, he added.
    —Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Winner, "Animal Behavior: Birds" Category

    A snowy clash of white-tailed eagles during a Polish winter is among the winning images in the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, organized by BBC Wildlife Magazine and London's Natural History Museum.

    After finding a dead moose next to a rail track, photographer Antoni Kasprzak waited five hours until the two birds, a juvenile and an adult, descended and began fighting over the carcass.

    "The old, more experienced bird won, forcing the immature eagle to wait its turn more than an hour," Kasprzak said.
    —Photograph by Antoni Kasprzak/Wildlife Photographer of the Year



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