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The Italian photographer Bruno D'Amicis and his report on one of the most elusive creatures of the Sahara desert, the Fennec, won an important recognition for nature photography: the Fritz Pölking Prize 2015, a prize awarded by the Society of German Nature Photographers (GDT), a German consortium of nature photographers, to the most valuable photographic projects in this sector.

Challenging sand storms and often prohibitive working conditions, Bruno D'Amicis has documented the life of an animal that is difficult to photograph in nature, because it is shy and nocturnal. Describing a faithful and truthful portrait of a species threatened by predators and by the socially and politically unstable conditions of many North African countries.

Mostly known for large ears, which are used to locate food sources between the two and disperse heat, the fennec (Vulpes zerda) is the quintessence of the creature used to surviving in the desert. This small fox from North Africa, the smallest canid in the world - weighs just 1.5 kg - has learned to survive for a long time without water and to obtain liquids from its prey, from berries and from fleshy leaves of vegetables. The specimen in the photo, immortalized by a trap camera, was looking for beetles, protected by the roots of a bush. 20 animal ploys to survive in the desert

The Italian photographer has immortalized it in the dunes of the Tunisian desert, in his favorite habitat: fairly solid and compact sand that can be dug into an underground den, with sparse vegetation and far from the areas beaten by tourists and caravans.

«In such a vast environment - he writes - it was very difficult to locate the work area and the dens of this fox, also because it is persecuted by those who capture its cubs. During the three years that were necessary to complete this work, I had to face sand storms, quarrels with poachers, endless bureaucratic quarrels and … even a revolution! ".

Two fennec puppies of about a month, photographed while playing outside the den. The puppies of this animal are born around the end of March and are autonomous enough to play alone already in May. In case of danger, the mother immediately moves them to a new shelter, sheltered from prying eyes.

"The fennec has big and sensitive ears - says D'Amicis - for weeks I had to play" hide and seek "with a female of fennec, to photograph it together with her little ones without noticing my presence and the noise of my camera".

The fennec is so shy and reluctant to contact the man that he has earned the nickname "ghost", or "elf" of the dunes. These canids hunt almost exclusively at night, when they come out of the long tunnels to look for rodents, insects, lizards, locusts, eggs and other small delicacies. They have excellent hearing, and at the first signs of danger they disappear underground (hence the nickname).

The life of the fennecs is closely linked to the abundance of invertebrates: in the photo, a beetle crosses its path with the footprints left by the fox.

The few interactions with humans are often traumatic: in the photo, a 5-week fennec, not yet completely weaned, in the hands of a man who literally extracted it from an underground burrow with his brothers, digging with his bare hands. He will try to sell it illegally to tourists passing through these areas of the Tunisian desert.

An adult fennec, bound and exhibited in a Tunisian souk. Used to living in the silence and solitude of the desert, this animal showed clear signs of stress and aggression at the time of shooting. Unfortunately he died a few days after the photo was taken.

Sultan, an adult fennec exhibited - as a "bait" for tourists - outside a shop in Douz, a town in the Tunisian desert. Although the animal was captured when it was still small and badly endured the conditions of captivity to which it is forced, the owners of the shop insist on calling it "domestic".

The tail of an adult fennec is exhibited inside a car, as a symbol of "good luck". Although these animals, totally self-sufficient in their habitat, rarely pose a threat to the domestic animals of those living in the desert, they are sometimes considered intrusive and dangerous, and hunted and killed for it.

An adult fennec held captive in a sheepfold in a town in southern Tunisia.

Bruno D'Amicis, born in Rome in 1979, lives in Abruzzo. He has already collected prestigious awards in competitions such as World Press Photo, Wildlife Photographer of the Year and GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. «Abruzzo - he explains - is very rich in biodiversity, it is the true" wild heart of Italy "and offers many ideas for my work, together with the possibility of working calmly and continuing to return to the same places. Soon there will be the launch of my next book on the Apennine wolf, the result of a long project entirely carried out "behind the house" ».

The Fritz Pölking Junior Prize went to the Canadian Connor Stefanison (born in 1991). Connor convinced the jury with a report on snow goats (Oreamnos americanus) whose alpine habitat is seriously threatened by climate change. Here, the portrait of a small family: the dominant male in the foreground, the female and the small in the background.

To carry out the service, the 24-year-old Canadian spent several days in the mountains of North America, whose rocks are full of minerals. The goats lick them to ensure the right supplies of salt.

A territorial battle between the dominant male and a contender.

The portrait of a goat obtained in the middle of the day, at a time when these animals rest, remaining sheltered from the heat and flies that surround them.

Shortly before the Sun sets, a dominant female hoards the last supply of minerals by licking the rock. Standing at the right angle, Connor captured the sunlight while peeking from the animal's body.

At night, while the rest of the flock continues to feed, a dominant male takes advantage of it to rest, under the stars.

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Challenging sand storms and often prohibitive working conditions, Bruno D'Amicis has documented the life of an animal that is difficult to photograph in nature, because it is shy and nocturnal. Describing a faithful and truthful portrait of a species threatened by predators and by the socially and politically unstable conditions of many North African countries.