The Mumbai Photo That Won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

The wild isn’t always as far away as you imagine. | By NGT Staff  
Wildlife photographer of the year
Titled "The Alley Cat", Nayan Khanolkar’s winning photograph of a leopard was taken in the Aarey Milk Colony. Photo: Nayan Khanolkar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Cities aren’t devoid of wildlife. In Mumbai, leopards roam Borivali’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park, not far from the metropolis’s tall apartment buildings and sprawling chawls. In one such settlement, in the Aarey Milk Colony, Nayan Khanolkar—biology teacher, photographer and research fellow with the Bombay Natural History Society—took this stunning photo, earning him the distinction of being the wildlife photographer of the year in the urban wildlife category by Natural History Museum, London.

The image was taken in the settlement of Mumbai’s Warli community, who have a longstanding history of co-existing with the big cat. Leopards are part of their lives, even featuring in their traditional paintings. This idea of humans and wild animals being able to share the same space is what fuelled Khanolkar’s project to get the perfect shot. With the help of locals who supplied him with valuable information, and kept an eye on his equipment, he finally got the “Alley Cat”. It took him four months.

This isn’t the first time that photographs of leopards in Mumbai have left us spellbound. Last year, National Geographic photographer Steve Winter spent time in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, tracking its leopards for a story about the capacity for big cats and humans to co-exist. His images of leopards walking the park’s fringes, with Mumbai’s matchbox-sized apartments in the background, are incredible. (See them here).

Khanolkar’s photograph—along with other winning shots—will be displayed in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, before touring across the UK and the world, to destinations like Spain, Canada, the USA, Germany, and Macau. The exhibition will run from 21 October 2016 to 10 September 2017.

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