Comedy and Conservation

Elephant seal on Campbell Island, courtesy of my friend Ellen Rykers.

Last week’s post was on an interesting and important topic, but it was pretty depressing to research things like the prices of elephant ivory and bobcat pelts. So this week, we’re focusing on a more cheerful topic: comedic wildlife photography and how it helps conservation! More specifically, I want to share some of the images from two of my favorite competitions – the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards and the Wildlife Photo Fail Awards.


The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards is an annual competition where people submit their best shots of animals in bizarre, awkward, hilarious situations, like this sea turtle slapping a parrotfish in the face. Patricia Bauchman, one of the Wild Focus Project’s featured photographers, was a finalist in the 2016 Comedy Awards with a photo of a couple of bighorn rams who appeared to be deciding which ewes to hit on. Anthropomorphizing (assigning human traits and emotions to non-humans) is a big part of these photos and why we find them so delightful. Here are some of my favorites:


The Wildlife Photo Fail Awards was a one-time social media contest that produced some comedy gold. In wildlife photography, the goal is generally to get beautiful and compelling shots of animals. But last year, the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) organization started a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to show people the less glamorous side of wildlife photography – the sort of shots that definitely don’t make it into National Geographic.

Finalists in the #WildlifePhotoFail contest last year, via  GWC .

Finalists in the #WildlifePhotoFail contest last year, via GWC.

Anyone who’s ever attempted to photograph wildlife will be familiar with the disappointment of an out-of-focus shot when an animal gets way too close or a beautiful background with a blur as the animal goes *nyoom* just as you hit the shutter, or, well, things like this (kind of NSFW). It’s a relief to know that other photographers experience the same thing, and we might as well laugh at it. Here’s one of my own personal favorite photo fails, from last year’s trip to Wyoming:

Wait for it...



The best thing about both of these contests was that they support conservation as well as entertain. GWC, which ran the Fail Awards, is big science and advocacy charity group that supports field research and science-based conservation efforts around the world. And the Comedy Awards support the international wildlife charity Born Free, which focuses mainly on ending wildlife exploitation and abuse. You can also submit your own photos for the Comedy Awards until the end of June! And remember, for every majestic wildlife photo you've ever seen, there are almost certainly dozens more along the lines of this excellent pile of blorps:

Elephant seals on Macquarie Island, via Ellen Rykers.