Indian photographer Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan’s stunning portrait of a male orangutan peering from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, Indonesia, has won him National Geographic’s grand prize.
The Singapore-based photographer was named the ‘2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year’ after a contest that saw 11,000 submissions from around the world. As a grand prize winner, he received $7,500.
In addition, he is also the winner of the top prize in the wildlife category for the same photo. Photos could be entered to four categories —wildlife, landscapes, aerials, and underwater.
“Rampant palm oil cultivation threatens this critically endangered ape, forcing the normally arboreal species to resort to unusual behavior—such as wading through crocodile-infested rivers—in order to survive,” the 41-year-old wrote in the caption alongside the photo.
The channel announced in an Instagram post that “Our judges were impressed by how the poignant image spoke to the impact deforestation is having on the habitat of this critical endangered species.”
Speaking to The Straits Times Dec. 13 Bojan said he took the photo while in Borneo in August 2017 working on a book on endangered primates across Asia. He had shot 25 to 30 different frames of the entire sequence of the orangutan climbing down the tree and crossing the river.
“I decided to get into the river to get some unique angles and perspective,” he was quoted as saying. “It was initially a bit scared, so it hid behind the tree, but I stood behind another tree. This image that won the award was taken when it was checking to see if I was still there.”
Bojan, who moved to Singapore from India two years ago with his wife, told The Straits Times that his biggest inspiration was the Singapore Zoo, which he credited as “one of the best zoos in the world.”
“Two years ago, I visited the Singapore Zoo for the first time and I was just blown away by the primates there,” he said. “That’s what triggered me to travel to Indochina, Laos and Vietnam, searching for these primates and photographing them in the wild.”
Bojan told the publication that he has done photography for more than ten years, focusing more seriously on it in the past four.
He said he was thankful to God for the award and was also “super excited.”
“I was really excited that this particular image won the contest because I think the orangutans needed it more than me,” he said. “If you travel to Borneo, you’ll see that almost 60 to 70 percent of their habitat has been destroyed by palm oil farming. I think this will put some spotlight back on this endangered species... and help to save their habitats.”