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Friday, July 22, 2011

Conflict of interest: Remarkable photographs which capture the vicious battle for survival in the wild

By Sadie Whitelocks

It's fight not flight that keeps them alive.

From snarling lionesses in the bush to a great white shark snatching a seal from the air, these amazing pictures show nature at its most dramatic.

The wildlife photographers who took them prowled four continents and placed themselves within yards of some of the wilds most lethal creatures to take these spectacular images.

Bald move: Photographer and writer Steve Bloom has spent a decade trekking the globe in a bid to capture some of nature's most feared species in moments of conflict such as these two bald eagles battling it out in Alaska

Photographer, Steve Bloom, 58, compiled the incredible set of pictures and took a walk on the wild side to capture many of the images himself.

While visiting a nature reserve in Assam, India, Steve found himself face-to-face with a two-ton rhino. 'I managed to gain permission to visit a section of the reserve people aren't usually allowed to go to,' explained Steve.

'The rhino was standing around happily grazing - until it saw me and suddenly charged. It ran with full force like an accelerating car. I was in an open jeep so I was in a quite vulnerable position. The armed ranger I was with tried to fire a warning shot into the air but his rifle jammed.

'Then the driver tried to start the jeep but in the heat of the moment the engine stalled. There was nothing I could do but point my camera at the beast. It suddenly swerved and covered us in dust. It felt like you could hear my heartbeat from the other end of India.'

Team effort: A group of bloody-mouthed African lions casually maul a hippopotamus as it is dragged to the ground in Masai Mara, Kenya

No escape: Four large male lions attack a buffalo from all sides, again in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Dirty dancing: One polar bear raises its left leg towards its rival as they spar at Cape Churchill in Manitoba, Canada (left) while two kangaroos are at each others throats on Kangaroo Island in Australia (right)

Rustling up a storm: Two African elephants kick up dust as they prepare to charge at each other in Botswana

Steve has won a host of international awards for his work, including The Power of Photography Award, The Golden Eye of Russia, and Lucie Awards and been featured in magazines such as Life, Time and National Geographic.

Despite the physical danger, Steve explained his mission to provide people will a realistic view of how animals survive in the wild.

'People often have an idealised view of nature," he said. 'They see cute furry animals going about their business and they think the creatures lives must be quite peaceful.

'But most of the time they are looking for food, which is an act of aggression. Otherwise they are trying to avoid being eaten or fighting for dominance over their own kind. They're constantly in a heightened sense of stress - violence is never far away.'

Deep dive: A great white shark is caught mid-attack in South Africa as it emerges out of the ocean depths, flinging itself towards its prey

Beary scary: Two grown polar bears spar in Cape Churchill, Manitoba, Canada (left) while two young brown bears play-fight in Katmai National Park in Alaska (right)

What big teeth you have: Two hippopotamus - famed for their large mouths - battle it out in a river in Botswana

Water fight: Two hippos bear their teeth while they violently writhe in a Kenyan river

He began wildlife while on holiday in South Africa in 1993 and three years later decided to make it his full-time career.

Explaining his inspiration he said: 'As a child in South Africa, I’d always been interested in visual images, as well as cinema. There was no TV in South Africa, too, as the authorities at that time had banned it, so I spent a lot of time looking at Life and other photo magazines.'

But not all animals involved in conflicts reach in a messy end. In many cases animals are fighting creatures of the same species for dominance - as shown in the picture of Japanese macaques squabbling in hot springs. In other situations it is the prey that has the upper hand.

Tusk tackle: This aerial view shows two African elephants fighting at Amboseli National Park in the Kajiado District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya. Elephants use their tusks for digging for roots and for fighting each other during mating season

From water to dry land: A Nile crocodile snaps at a blue wildebeest in the Mara River, South Africa while two zebras come to blows in Masai Mara, Kenya

Mud bath: Two male African Elephants thrash around on a muddy river bed battling it out in Botswana

'For example a cheetah is the fastest land animal at around 70 miles-per-hour,' said Steve. 'But it can only run in short bursts of speed. If it doesn't catch the antelope it's chasing within the first few seconds it's the antelope that will outrun the cheetah.

'So creatures need to be adaptable, learn from their surroundings and above all stay strong.'

Over recent years he has published numerous books exhibiting his work including Trading Places:The Merchants of Nairobi, Living Africa, Elephant!, Spirit of the Wild, Untamed and In Praise of Primates.

Lethal embrace: A cheetah attacks a wildebeest head-on in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Group outing: Two pairs of polar bears rear up as they duel in the snow in Cape Churchill, Manitoba, Canada



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