Winners of the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed, with photojournalist Brent Stirton taking home the overall award for his image of a black rhino.

Stirton’s haunting image of a de-horned black rhino in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve was one of more than 30 such scenes the photographer said he visited covering the story of the illegal international trade in rhino horn.

Competition judge Roz Kidman Cox says ‘To make such a tragic scene almost majestic in its sculptural power deserves the highest award. There is rawness, but there is also great poignancy and therefore dignity in the fallen giant.

‘It’s also symbolic of one of the most wasteful, cruel and unnecessary environmental crimes, one that needs to provoke the greatest public outcry.’

Natural History Museum Director Sir Michael Dixon added: ‘The black rhino offers a sombre and challenging counterpart to the story of ‘Hope’ our blue whale.

‘Like the critically endangered black rhinoceros, blue whales were once hunted to the brink of extinction, but humanity acted on a global scale to protect them. This shocking picture of an animal butchered for its horns is a call to action for us all.’

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Stirton’s image beat out nearly 50,000 entries from 92 countries and will join an exhibition of the competition’s 99 other winning and shortlisted images at the 53rd annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. The exhibition opens this Friday 20 October at London’s Natural History Museum and closes on Monday 28 May.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 winners: Young Award winner

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 goes to Daniël Nelson for his intimate portrait of a young western lowland gorilla from the Republic of Congo, lounging on the forest floor.

Both Stirton’s and Nelson’s images were chosen from the 16 category winners.

Entries for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 competition open on Monday 23 October.

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