“‘I guess Summer’s Over!” by John Speirs won the Spectrum Photo Creatures in the Air award. (© John Speirs/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021)

“I was taking pics of pigeons in flight when this leaf landed on the bird’s face,” photographer John Speirs says in a description of his photograph “I Guess Summer’s Over!”, a finalist in the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards. His delightful shot of a common park pigeon blindsided by autumn’s sudden and rather violent arrival is one of the many hilarious — and strangely relatable — images that made the cut this year.

Ken Jensen’s “Ouch!” took the first prize. (© Ken Jensen/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021)

Chosen from 7,000 entries, the overall winner was Ken Jensen’s portrait of a golden silk monkey landing, err, uncomfortably on a bridge that runs over the Xun River in Yunnan, China. Aptly titled “Ouch!”, the image captures its male primate protagonist attempting a “show of aggression,” Jensen explained, but his performance of patriarchal force painfully backfired.

Jensen received the top prize: a handmade trophy from the Wonder Workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which employs individuals with disabilities to create art using recycled waste, and a one-week safari trip in Kenya.

“It is such a great feeling to know that one’s image is making people smile globally as well as helping to support some fantastically worthwhile conservation causes,” Jensen said in a statement. The contest’s organizers donate 10% of their total net revenue, much it from print sales, to a different grassroots project each year; the latest round will support Save Wild Orangutans, an initiative to safeguard the endangered inhabitants of Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo.

Chee Kee Teo captured an otter swimming lesson in “Time for school.” Chee Kee Teo/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021)

In the category “Creatures of the Sea,” Chee Kee Teo’s photo is otter-ly heartwarming: “Time for school” depicts a smooth-coated otter mom biting her pup’s ear to help him wade back and forth during a swimming lesson. Judging from his comical wide-eyed reaction, “familiar to all parents worldwide,” according to the press release, the young student is anything but pleased by his teacher’s tactics.

Other unmissable highlights from this year’s contest include “Ninja Prairie Dog” by Arthur Trevino in the “Animals of the Land” category, an incredible capture of a majestic bald eagle seemingly deterred in its path by a tiny prairie dog; and Vicki Jauron’s adorable four-image series of a baby elephant bathing in the mud in Matusadona Park, Zimbabwe, ‘The Joys of a Mud Bath.”

Ninja Prairie Dog” by Arthur Trevino. Arthur Trevino/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021)

Founded in 2015 by wildlife photographer Paul Joynson-Hicks, the competition aims to forge a human connection with the animal kingdom through humor.

“A funny animal photo is incredibly effective because there are no barriers to understanding, or taboos that must be negotiated,” says the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards’ website.

The visuals tap into our sense of anthropomorphism, “well-documented as one of the most powerful triggers for human empathy. To really understand animals and the issues that affect them, you need to empathise with them as fellow inhabitants of the same planet.”

You can see all the winning photos for this year’s awards here.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...