Shortlisted from more than 49,000 entries from around the world, the 25 images, released Tuesday, show creatures photographed in destinations including oceans, rivers, forests, captivity, shrubland and even suburbia.
Creatures range from tiny to huge, from two squirrels snuggling in a nest of foliage in the Scottish highlands, to a Bhutanese takin roaming at high altitude and a huge lion presiding over a stormy slab of granite.
As the weather grew colder, two Eurasian red squirrels found comfort and warmth in a box photographer Neil Anderson had put up in one of the pine trees near his home in the Scottish Highlands.
Neil Anderson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Many of the images also explore the devastating relationship between humans and animals, and profile the disappearing natural world, with photos of forest fires, near-extinct species and wildlife roaming across urban settlements.
The awards feature work from both amateur and professional photographers from around the world.
A fire line leaves a trail of destruction through woodland near the border of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Queensland, Australia.
Robert Irwin/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“This year’s shortlist includes a wide diversity of wildlife photography from a fragile planet,” Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at the Natural History Museum and member of the judging panel, said in a statement.
“Whether assessing human-animal relationships, highlighting the plight of captive species or animals thriving in their environments, the public are in for a difficult decision,” he added.