Best Animal Photos of the Year

A large black bear leaves its den under a vacant home in South Lake Tahoe, California. As bear populations grow and humans expand into formerly undeveloped areas, more of the bruins are learning to live alongside people.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, people came to trade, sell, or watch birds at places like this in Havana, where onlookers gathered to watch a songbird take seeds from a handler’s tongue. 

A young forest elephant trots along with its parents in Lopé National Park, Gabon, along one of many paths that generations of the animals have cut through the fruit-rich rainforest.

Leopards court in a flowering coral tree on a misty winter morning in southern India’s Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. Anti-poaching measures have helped increase prey populations in the park, which allows both big cat species to thrive.

Polar bears spend so much time in the water that many scientists consider them to be marine mammals. But when ice and snow are scant, they spend time inland—like this individual sleeping in a patch of fireweed near Churchill, Manitoba, in summertime.

After darting a baboon in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, researchers with the Amboseli Baboon Research Project took measurements and samples of the animal’s blood, fluid, and skin, then released it unharmed.

A two-spot wrasse and a cornetfish swim through a colony of garden eels about two-thirds the size of a football field on a sandy slope near Negros Island, Philippines. Social but shy, they vanish into their holes when disturbed.

In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, raccoons stand upright following the arrival of a resident who regularly feeds them—despite laws against the practice. Raccoons that become reliant on human food are more likely to spread disease and get hit by cars.

A blacktip reef shark traverses a mangrove forest of Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, which serves as both a nursery and hunting ground for many marine species. The island hosts one of the healthiest inshore shark populations in the Indian Ocean.

A young lynx is photographed by camera trap at an abandoned farm. In 2002 fewer than a hundred of these animals survived in the wild. Since then, the population has grown tenfold, with at least 1,100 animals scattered across Spain and Portugal.

A man offers a baby three-toed sloth for sale to passersby on a highway in Altos de Polonia, in northwestern Colombia. The town is one of several hot spots in the region for the illegal sloth trade. (From “A notorious sloth cartel kingpin vanished—We tried to find him,” January 11, 2022.)

From National Geographic.

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