'Bushfire' wins Natural History Museum's prestigious People's Choice award

Drone shot reveals the devastating impact of forest fires on natural habitats in Australia

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A dramatic aerial picture of a fire tearing through a northern Australian nature reserve has won the Natural History Museum's People's Choice Award.

The startling image, titled Bushfire, was taken by Robert Irwin, the 17-year-old son of the famed nature presenter Steve Irwin.

Robert, who is also a television presenter, sprang into action after seeing smoke billowing on the horizon and sent his radio-controlled drone to the location, just as it was about to run out of battery.

The image shows the devastating effect of forest fires on wildlife habitats in almost perfect symmetry.

It was taken at the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, in Queensland, Australia, which is home to many endangered species.

Director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Doug Gurr, said: "Robert's image is both stirring and symbolic. Last year the world stood aghast at the devastating wildfires that struck much of Australia, and this photograph depicts just one example of a staggering biodiversity loss caused by the detrimental impacts of climate change, habitat loss and pollution."

The People's Choice Award winner is publicly selected from a shortlist of 25 images, chosen by the Natural History Museum from more than 49,000 images that were submitted for their annual wildlife competition.

Also in the top five was this image of a grey hare curled into a sphere as she protected herself from heavy snowfall in the Scottish Highlands.

The photographer, Andy Parkinson, endured 96.5-kph winds to take the picture, titled Hare Ball. He said he enjoyed the physical challenge and time alone in nature needed to take such an intimate portrait.

Also highly commended was this devastating picture of the last moments of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino.

Captured by Ami Vitale, the image shows Sudan as he draws his last breaths while being comforted by keeper Joseph Wachira at the Ol Peteja Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Other commended images include an innovative remote capture of two squirrels in Drey dreaming from Neil Anderson, and a Close encounter between a worried looking Labrador in a car and an enormous moose, taken by Guillermo Esteves.

The five images will be displayed in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London when it reopens.