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The 12 Most Strikingly Beautiful Animal Photos You Need to See

Nothing is more breathtaking than observing animals in nature—especially these beauties from wildlife photographer Graeme Green.

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graeme greenCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

The true wonders of the world

As a wildlife photographer, it’s impossible to ever feel like you’ve seen it all. The natural world is a constant source of wonder, with around nine million species on Earth, including up to two million species of animals.

I’ve worked on assignments as far apart as the salt flats of Botswana, the wild, unending plains of Venezuela, and the remote, white wonderland of Antarctica. On every assignment, I’ve found and photographed something fascinating that I’d never come across before, like these most majestic and photogenic birds. Here are 12 highlights from my photographic adventures.

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elephant reaching for high branchesCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

African Bush Elephant

Ruaha National Park in Tanzania contains what experts believe is the highest concentration of elephants of any national park in East Africa. I took this photo around sunset, far out in the east of the park. I wanted to capture the behavior of the elephant, with its trunk reaching up to the baobab branches, like a searching, grasping hand.

Elephants are incredible and important creatures. They eat between 200 and 600 pounds of plant life each day but only digest about 44 percent, so they help disperse seeds across Africa.

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blue eyed lizardCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Blue-Eyed Angle-Headed Lizard

I’ve been traveling the world as a wildlife photographer for more than a decade. I enjoy photographing iconic animals, like elephants or lions, but for me wildlife photography definitely doesn’t need to always be about the “giants” of the animal kingdom. Smaller animals are just as remarkable, including bugs, birds, and reptiles.

I took this picture of Ol’ Blue Eyes in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. It’s the kind of creature many people might have walked by, but I found it fascinating to study and photograph. I really like the details, textures, and colors.

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cheetah mother and cubCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Cheetah mother and cub

This picture of a cheetah family grooming and cleaning up after an evening meal was taken in Mara Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya, just outside the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Big cat numbers in Naboisho are doing well. I spent time with lions roaring, leopards prowling, and cheetahs hunting—and this cheetah family resting after eating a recent kill. I wanted to show the intimacy between the cub and her mother, as they used their tongues to clean each other and rubbed their faces affectionately together.

If you appreciate cute animals, check out these 32 adorably funny animal photos.

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leopard sealCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Leopard Seal

The “white continent” of Antarctica is home to exceptional wildlife, from whales to penguins. It’s also a great place for landscape photography, with brilliant whites and shades of blue.

I photographed this leopard seal basking in the sun on an ice floe on an assignment a few years ago. It looks like it has a smile of contentment on its face. It doesn’t have many predators and it was a warm day (for Antarctica), so it could afford to take it easy in the sun.

These are the 15 penguin pictures that will melt your heart.

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bat exodusCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Bat exodus

Every evening around sunset, thousands of bats fly out of the giant Deer Cave inside Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysian Borneo to feed on the bugs that fill the air. It’s known as the “bat exodus.”

It’s not the easiest natural phenomenon to photograph. I had to get creative, using the silhouettes of plants and giant leaves to give a striking foreground and a sense of perspective to the hordes of bats filling the sky. This is one of my favorite photos, partly for the perseverance and creativity it took. You’ll love these gorgeous photos of cheetahs. 

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mountain gorillaCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Mountain Gorilla

Spending time with mountain gorillas is an unforgettable experience. This one in the picture walked right by me. They are powerful, but they exude a feeling of calm and peace. They behave gently as they sit among the trees, chew leaves, groom, and tumble over one another. It’s particularly enjoyable to watch the bonds and interactions between the gorillas.

Of all the photos I took in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, this one is a favorite because of the serene look on the gorilla’s face.

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leopard huntingCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

A leopard hunting

In Ruaha National Park recently, I watched a leopard hunting from the branches of a baobab tree, a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. He was surrounded by angry baboons who wanted him out of their territory, when an unfortunate impala wandered under the tree, munching grass.

The leopard looked down and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss; he leapt and seized the impala in his jaws. This photo was taken at the moment just before the jump, the leopard’s eyes fixed on the prize.

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meerkatCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Meerkat

The Makgadikgadi Pans is a massive system of salt pans in the northern Kalahari in Botswana. Despite being hot, dry, and inhospitable for much of the year, the salt pans host plenty of wildlife, from elephants to lions to ostriches to the iconic meerkat.

The desert-adapted meerkats come out of their burrows each morning and make their way across the plain, foraging for scorpions, grubs, or other meals that contain the nutrients and vital fluids that help the meerkat survive this arid environment. Before they head out, they warm themselves up under the morning sun like this one is doing.

Did you know that these 12 amazing animals can be found in only one place in the world?

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gelada monkeyCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Gelada Monkey

Photographing gelada monkeys, or bleeding heart monkeys, in Ethiopia was one of the most enjoyable wildlife photography experiences of my career. They fill the grasslands and high plateaus of the Simien Mountains, grooming, grazing, playing, and mating. If you move slowly and non-threateningly, they don’t seem to mind a human in their midst. I like the detail of this adult male’s face and the sense of intent.

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Pit viperCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Wagler’s Pit Viper

Malaysia’s Bako National Park contains several monkey species, including proboscis monkeys and silver leaf monkeys, as well as wild boar and plenty more. I found this Wagler’s Pit Viper, a type of green pit viper, sitting in the branches of a tree. It’s a highly venomous snake, with heat-sensing pits on the sides of the head, and I had to be careful when taking the picture not to disturb or antagonize it. It’s a picture I particularly like for the colors, textures, and patterns.

For more interesting species, check out the strangest animal found in every state.

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lion in low lightCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

African Lion

Lions are such remarkable and regal animals—I love spending time with them. I photographed this one in the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya. He was wandering around one evening, most likely trying to meet up with other members of his pride. I spent a while moving with the lion from a distance. I like how the last light of the day is on his face in this picture, giving great contrast with the darkness of the oncoming evening.

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vervet monkeyCourtesy Graeme Green, graeme-green.com

Vervet Monkey

I can happily sit for hours photographing monkeys. They have such diverse behaviors. I took this in Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. I noticed a vervet monkey high up on the trunk of a tall Lala palm tree, starting to scramble its way down. I composed the photograph I wanted and took several pictures with the monkey in various positions; this one stood out—the monkey paused and posed for a moment before continuing his descent.

Next, see 23 of the most colorful animals in the world.

Graeme Green is an award-winning photographer, travel writer, and journalist. His work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, BBC, Wanderlust, National Geographic Traveller, The Sunday Telegraph, Forbes, Robb Report, South China Morning Post and more. For more on Graeme’s photography, see www.graeme-green.com.

Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.