Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov is the 2020 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for his picture of a Siberian tigress embracing a fir tree.
Winning from 49,000 other entries, The Embrace took Gorshkov 11 months to capture. Siberian tigers (also known as Amur tigers) move across territories of up to 2,000 kilometres for males and 450 kilometres for females. To take his award-winning shot, the photographer spent months searching for traces of the big cats on trees. In January 2019, Gorshkov installed his motion sensor camera by the fir tree in the photo, but it was only in November that he managed to capture The Embrace. The shot was taken in the Russian Far East, close to the border with Russia and North Korea, in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park.
Once the largest subspecies of tigers found across northern Eurasia, all the way into Turkey and along the Caspian Sea, Amur tigers were hunted for their fur and bones until only 20-30 animals survived. Conservation efforts, however, have led to an increase in the Siberian tiger population to 550, spread across the Russian Far East, northeastern China and North Korea.
“Hunted to the verge of extinction over the last century, the Amur population is still threatened by poaching and logging today,” said Dr Tim Littlewood, a jury member and the Executive Director of Science of the Natural History Museum in London, who develop and produce the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. “The remarkable sight of the tigress immersed in her natural environment offers us hope, as recent reports suggest numbers are growing from dedicated conservation efforts,” Littlewood added.
Gorshkov was born in rural Siberia, and grew up surrounded by Russian wildlife. Once a hunter of wild animals, Gorshkov became a wildlife photographer after an encounter with a leopard changed his perspective. Since then, he has founded the Russian Union of Wildlife Photographers, and has won national and international awards.