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Hours of waiting in the open air, day and night, just a few meters from the wildest and most solitary animals on the planet. And all to capture the perfect shot in an instant. It is the specialty of the participants in the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009, a competition reserved for those locked up in a photographic studio, they just can't stay.

The prestigious competition organized as every year by the Natural History Museum of London in collaboration with the BBC Wildlife Magazine, has registered this year over 43 thousand registrations from 94 different countries. Here are the five most beautiful photos.

The eyes fixed on the prey, an Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) jumps the fence like a racehorse. And with perfect timing, José Luis Rodriguez, the Spanish photographer behind the shot, captures him in flight. Too bad the photo, absolute winner of the competition, is a bit too "successful" to be true. The one portrayed by Rodriguez according to some, would actually be a wolf bred by the photographer in captivity and then used as a "model" for the competition. The organizers are now investigating the matter: if the rumors prove to be well founded, Rodriguez would immediately lose the title won (last update: Tuesday, December 22, 2009)

Texts and photographic research: Elisabetta Intini

Photo: © José Luis Rodríguez / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

Strait between the coils of a flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata) a gecko struggles to survive. But it will soon be swallowed up: the creeping predator named for the ability to "jump" from branch to branch, is specialized in capturing small reptiles, which it neutralizes with its poison. The whole scene took place in Malaysia, a few steps from the young Dutch Miles Kenzo Kooren, one of the most voted in the 11-14 year old category.

Photo: © Miles Kenzo Kooren / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

Without macro photography some extraordinary details would go completely unnoticed. Like the thirst of this immortalized red ant while sipping a drop of rain from a mallow flower. To dry the jaws probably, it was a too sweet meal: these insects in fact feed mainly on the sugary secretions produced by the aphids, their main prey. Best photo in the Animal Behavior category: All Other Animals, a section dedicated to animal behavior.

Photo: © András Mészáros / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

"That strange paws, that guy" seems to think this king penguin chick (Aptenodytes patagonicus) as he scans the photographer's footprints on the beach of Gold Harbor, South Georgia. When temperatures are particularly harsh the four-layer plumage - the the last of which is waterproof - these penguins are sometimes not enough. To warm up then, the colonies gather in a sort of collective "embrace", which avoids further heat loss.

See also the best photos of the British Wildlife Photography Awards competition
Photo: © Robert Friel / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

The cat and the fairy tale fox have nothing at all. Indeed this domestic watchdog in her master's yard does not seem to like the presence of the intruder, who bravely drives away despite the difference in size. In addition to the territory, cats and foxes (the red ones in particular) compete for a precise booty: the mice, which the foxes nail to the ground with their front legs, after long waits in absolute immobility.

Photo: © Igor Shpilenok / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

When it is said to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This swan of a famous London park, the Richmond Park, has been reluctantly involved in a fight between two rival deer. The poor bird was crossing a pond when the most aggressive of the contenders threw themselves into the water to decorate the opponent, located on the opposite bank. The other deer is certainly not left to look and in the middle of the big horns the swan that was trying to get away is finished. The story had a happy ending: at least for the bird, which somehow managed to break free, leaving the two litigants to their brawl.

The most beautiful photos of wild nature (see the gallery)

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The prestigious competition organized as every year by the Natural History Museum of London in collaboration with the BBC Wildlife Magazine, has registered this year over 43 thousand registrations from 94 different countries. Here are the five most beautiful photos.
The eyes fixed on the prey, an Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) jumps the fence like a racehorse. And with perfect timing, José Luis Rodriguez, the Spanish photographer behind the shot, captures him in flight. Too bad the photo, absolute winner of the competition, is a bit too "successful" to be true. The one portrayed by Rodriguez according to some, is actually a wolf bred by the photographer in captivity and then used as a "model" for the competition. The organizers are now investigating the matter: if the rumors prove to be well founded, Rodriguez would immediately lose the title won (last update: Tuesday, December 22, 2009)
Texts and photographic research: Elisabetta Intini
Photo: © José Luis Rodríguez / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009