10 of the Most Stunning Wildlife Pictures of the Year

Playful seals and voracious vultures feature in the best animal photographs of 2016.

Tim Laman spent three days using rope to climb up and down a tree in Indonesian Borneo, placing cameras at various angles to prepare for the return of an orangutan he knew would return to eat.

When the great ape came back, Laman shot the picture—and now, he is the grand-prize winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The contest, which is open to professional and amateur competitors worldwide, saw a record 50,000 entries from 95 countries in 2016.

“Wildlife Photographer of the Year highlights some of the big questions for society and the environment: How can we protect biodiversity? Can we learn to live in harmony with nature?” Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum in London, which runs the competition, said in a statement.

“The winning images touch our hearts, and challenge us to think differently about the natural world,” Dixon added.

Laman hopes his photograph helps protect habitat for the Southeast Asian apes, which are declining due to habitat loss. In July, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared both species—the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan—critically endangered.

“If we want to preserve a great ape that retains its vast culturally transmitted knowledge of how to survive in the rain forest and the full richness of wild orangutan behavior, then we need to protect orangutans, now,” Laman said in a statement. (See "Orangutans Are More Like Us Than You Think.")

A panel of industry professionals selected winners in 16 categories, 10 of which are shown above. They judged on three factors: creativity, artistry, and technical complexity. A hundred photographs from the competition will be shown at an exhibit starting October 21 at the Natural History Museum in London.

View the gallery to see some of this year's winners, which show both the brutality and beauty of the animal kingdom.