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Thursday, 21 October, 1999, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Wildlife through the lens
A stunning photograph of a sleepy leopard underneath a rising moon has won a South African game reserve ranger the title 1999 BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Jamie Thom, 26, works at the Mala Mala game reserve and called his triumph in the world's most prestigious wildlife photography competition "a dream come true." He receives 2,000 and a trophy.

"I first met this two-year-old leopard when he was only three months old and still with his mother," Mr Thom said.

"He was particularly curious and adventurous, practising his stalking on adult rhinos and giraffes and giving them the fright of their lives.

"I had been photographing for about 15 minutes before I noticed the moon behind him. The effect was a backdrop that most stage-set designers would die for."

Professional wildlife photographer Heather Angel said the picture is "simple, effective and atmospheric - it feels as if the animal is in complete control".

The competition received nearly 22,000 entries this year from 66 countries.

The judges selected 143 winning and commended images including Conny Lundstrom's golden eagle, which won the largest category, Animal Portraits.

"Winter in northern Sweden can be tough for young eagles, so I put out meat once a week for them. It took me two months to get the perfect portrait of a golden eagle in this special tree," he said.

The winner of the Animal Behaviour (mammals) category was 'Lioness carrying cub' by France's Michel Denis-Huot.

He said: "The lioness carefully transported her litter of four cubs, one by one. This one proved to be a bit of a mouthful, and she had to use her big front paw to keep it from wriggling out."

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year was won by South Africa's Nick Wilton, for his image of a malachite kingfisher.

William Osborne: "This pile of 15 foxes is the result of a night shoot in south west England, where fox numbers are culled as part of a 'vermin control programme'.

"The animals are picked out in spolights and shot with high-powered rifles. Foxes are considered vermin because they hunt pheasants that are reared for shooting."

Constantinos Petrinos: "On a night dive in the Lembeh Strait in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia I was amazed to see this octopus using a shell for cover.

"Despite its bigger size compared with the shell, it had no problem squeezing itself into its improvised home.

"I spent 40 minutes at 18 metres depth watching the octopus. When it was quiet, the shell would open and an eye would poke out."

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Jamie Thom
"Most of the pictures I take are opportunistic"
William Osborne
"The foxes were just thrown into a pile"
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