Bringing The World Home To You

© 2023 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Here Come The Penitent Penguins: The Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards Are Back

Penitent penguins. A seal aghast. A turbocharged wigeon, a vain gnu and a kickboxing kangaroo.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are back. This year's winners were announced Thursday morning.

The annual awards are "ingeniously titled to avoid any confusion," according to their website, and recognize images that are "light-hearted, upbeat, possibly unpretentious and mainly about wildlife doing funny things." Like a fox pooping in one of the holes on a golf course, for example. Not a lot pretentious about that.

Photos are judged on both technical excellence and comedic value of the captions, which is why we can't take credit (and won't accept blame) for the goofy captions above.

This author could go on all day about the various other finalists for the 2017 competition. (Did someone say mustachioed jackrabbit?) Better, however, to let some of the artists (photographers, not the wildlife) speak for themselves.

The finalists are about equally split between professional wildlife photographers and people who take photos mostly for fun. George Cathcart says he's been interested in photography since he bought his first camera back in 1968, when he was serving in the Vietnam War. "Cameras were cheap at the PX," where soldiers could buy things, he recalls.

He got back into photography after he retired a few years ago, and started taking pictures of birds and aquatic wildlife. "I love elephant seals," he says. "This time from December through February they're giving birth and mating," so there's a lot of drama on the beach.

Cathcart spent about a week going down to the beach in San Simeon, Calif., every day. One day, he saw a young male elephant seal posturing at another male. "Clearly, he objected," Cathcart says. "As soon as I took it, I knew I had something. It cracked me up immediately."

He titled the image, which is included above, "WTF?!"

Then, there's Carl Henry. Henry is from Houston, right on the migratory path for lots of birds going and coming from South America. When he started as an amateur wildlife photographer about 15 years ago, people assumed he photographed birds. They were wrong.

"I don't like birds," Henry says. Or at least he thought he didn't like them. Turns out they're all right, and even got him a spot as a finalist in this year's competition.

It was on South Georgia Island, near where Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton is buried. "I saw the three penguins heading for the church," he recalls. "I thought it would be a good photo."

It is.

Henry thinks it could have been even better. "I think one of the disadvantages of my photograph is that the penguins aren't as prominent. And then you realize, um, they're penguins."

Anyway, he's happy to be a finalist. "Everyone needs a laugh these days," he says. Something to make you feel like this.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
More Stories