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This picture of bedraggled cheetahs is among the best shots at Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021

The over-ambitious big cats are all of us after trying wild swimming for the first time

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson

Teeth-gritted, waves sloshing around them, these cheetahs don’t exactly look like the keenest of swimmers. The photograph was taken just after the group of males jumped into Kenya’s River Talek – and clearly regretted their decision. 

The water-averse big cats are known in the area as the Tano Bora: Maasi for ‘magnificent five’. The group comprises two sets of brothers and another male, who apparently go everywhere together (even into uninviting waters). 

The photographer, Buddhilini de Soyza, said it took them hours to decide to go for a dip, because they couldn’t find a way to cross the river without getting their paws wet. Eventually – and after much grimacing – the gang paddled their way across the crocodile-infested river. We don’t blame them for making a fuss at all, really. 

The photo was highly commended in the ‘Behaviour: Mammals’ category at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. More than 50,000 photographers from 95 countries entered the competition this year, tackling subjects ranging from the minutest of sea creatures to the disastrous effects of climate change.

The full list of winners will be revealed on October 12, with an exhibition of the photographs opening at London’s Natural History Museum the same week – but in the meantime, here are some ‘highly commended’ entrants.

Highly commended, Animal Portraits: ‘Storm Fox’ by Jonny Armstrong

Storm fox
Photograph: Jonny Armstrong / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Highly commended, Oceans: ‘The Bigger Picture’ by Audun Rikardsen

Net loss
Photograph: Audun Rikardsen / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Highly commended, Underwater: ‘Deep Feelers’ by Laurent Ballesta

Deep feelers
Photograph: Laurent Ballesta / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Highly commended, Photojournalism: ‘A Caring Hand’ by Douglas Gimesy

A caring hand
Photograph: Douglas Gimesy / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Highly commended, Plants and Fungi: ‘Mushroom Magic’ by Juergen Freund

Mushroom magic
Photograph: Juergen Freund / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Highly commended, Urban Wildlife: ‘Lynx on the Threshold’ by Sergio Marijuán

Lynx on the threshold
Photograph: Sergio Marijuán / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

More incredible photography:

19 street photographers pick the one shot that sums up their city 

‘A socialist fairyland’: the bizarre and beautiful buildings of Pyongyang

This photographer takes dreamy photos of swimming pools from above

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