Favorite Wildlife Photos of 2017 from the Wildlife Conservation Society


By Stephen Sautner and Max Pulsinelli
December 28, 2017

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) has released its favorite wildlife images of 2017.

Ten of the images come from WCS’s Bronx Zoo, and ten images are from WCS’s Global Conservation Programs taken by WCS scientists working around the world.

WCS operates five wildlife parks in New York City and works in nearly 60 countries and across the world’s ocean saving wildlife and wild places.

WCS Global Conservation Program Images

(1) Jaguar, Defensores del Chaco National Park, Paraguay

PHOTO CREDIT: WCS Paraguay Program

A jaguar (Panthera onca) walks in front of a WCS camera trap in the gigantic Defensores del Chaco National Park (720,000 hectares or 2,780 square miles) in Northern Chaco, Paraguay. WCS Paraguay is developing the first monitoring of jaguars and their wild prey in this public protected area working with the Minister of Environment and supported by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

(2) Amur Tiger, Russian Far East


A camera-trap photograph released by WCS partner PROO Tiger Center provided further evidence that Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) are re-colonizing lost habitat in Russia’s Far East. The image shows Svetlaya, an adult Amur tigress that was orphaned in the wild, raised in captivity, and released back into the wild in 2014, walking along a trail in April 2017 with her back half caked in spring mud. But what really has scientists celebrating is that the photograph reveals the legs and shadow of a cub — one of three she produced this year.

(3) Wolverine, Arctic Alaska

PHOTO CREDIT: Peter Mather

Will reductions in Arctic snow cover make tundra-dwelling wolverines more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought? That’s a question WCS scientists are working to answer using both traditional scientific surveys as well as learning from local Iñupiat experts. Here a wolverine (Gulo gulo) peers out from a trap before being released back into the wild. Researchers are gathering new information from trapped wolverines to inform an assessment of the health of the population.

(4) Asian Elephant, Sumatra, Indonesia


While many rightly voice concern over the precipitous decline of African elephants, Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are facing a catastrophic, yet less well-documented, decline of their own. In April of 2017, WCS released photos by photographer Paul Hilton illustrating the challenges faced in conserving the Sumatran elephant. These include the conversion of forest habitat to oil palm plantations, degradation of forest habitat by illegal logging, conflicts with farmers through crop-raiding, and being illegally hunted for their ivory tusks.

(5) Asian Giant Softshell Turtle, Cambodia


One of 150 baby Asian giant softshell turtles (Pelochelys cantorii) released into the Mekong River in Cambodia in June by WCS, in collaboration with Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA). The hatchlings are part of a community protection program designed to increase the wild population of the species and had been collected from nests that were guarded by local communities.

(6) Tiger Grouper, Glover’s Reef, Belize


Sparring male tiger grouper (Mycteroperca tigris) in full spawning colors at Belize’s Glover’s Reef atoll. Several grouper species gather each year in large numbers in this area to spawn. Working in conjunction with the Belizean government, WCS monitors groupers for abundance and individual size to protect them from overfishing.

(7) Caiman, Rio Lagartococha, Peruvian Amazon

PHOTO CREDIT: Daniela Racines ©WCS

WCS researchers, working in Rio Lagartococha — the extreme north reaches of the Peruvian Amazon on the border with Ecuador spotted this common caiman (Caiman crocodilus) trying not to be seen.

(8) Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey, Zanzibar

PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Davenport

A team of WCS scientists recently completed the first-ever range-wide population census of the Endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus kirkii) finding three times as many individuals (more than 5,800 animals) than previously thought. The bad news: survivorship of young animals is very low. WCS is working with the Government of Zanzibar to initiate a flagship species program that will protect both primates and the archipelago’s remaining forests.

(9) The Other New York Giants: Humpback Whale, New York Seascape

PHOTO CREDIT: H. Rosenbaum/WCS-Ocean Giants

Recreational boaters in the waters off coastal Long Island are treated to a breathtaking wildlife spectacle: a lunge-feeding humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Humpbacks and other marine (wildlife or species) in New York waters can often be seen pursuing and feeding on schools of fish such as menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus). The WCS Ocean Giants program collects important information on whale populations in local waters, as well as around the world, to better inform relevant conservation actions and management decisions for these and other marine mammals.

(10) Amazonian Horned Frog, Madidi National Park, Bolivia


The otherworldly Amazonian horned frog (Ceratophrys cornuta), just one of over 1,850 species of vertebrates confirmed by the innovative Identidad Madidi expedition as present within the record breaking Madidi National Park, Bolivia.

WCS’s Bronx Zoo Images

(1) Snow Leopard Cub

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

A snow leopard cub (Panthera uncia) born at the Bronx Zoo has made its public debut in October. The cub is the second generation offspring of Leo — the snow leopard which became famous when he was rescued as a young orphaned cub after being found in the high mountains of northern Pakistan in 2005. The young female was born this summer to mother, K2, and father, Naltar, who was sired by Leo in 2013.

(2) Gelada Baboon

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

The Bronx Zoo a successful breeding program for geladas (Theropithecus gelada) and this baby was born in August. The Bronx Zoo is the only zoo in the U.S. breeding geladas and is one of only two that exhibit the species. The family group can be observed at the zoo’s Baboon Reserve.

(3) Little Penguins

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

A colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor), also known as little blue penguins or ferry penguins, came to the Bronx from the Taronga Zoo in Australia in 2015. As their name suggests, they are the smallest of the 17 penguin species. The Bronx Zoo is home to two species of these aquatic birds — little penguins and Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus).

(4) Kihansi Spray Toad

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

An adult male Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) at the Bronx Zoo strikes a “Superman” pose to expose the dark patches above its legs in an effort to attract a female. The Bronx Zoo breeds Kihansi Spray Toads for reintroduction into the Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania. In 1999, the construction of an important hydroelectric dam dramatically changed the Kihansi spray toad’s habitat which was dependent on the mist created by the waterfalls in the gorge. In 2012, the species became the first amphibian to be reintroduced to its native habitat after being declared extinct in the wild. The breeding and repatriation program is an ongoing partnership between the Bronx Zoo, Toledo Zoo, and the Government of Tanzania.

(5) American Bison Calf

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

A juvenile American bison (Bison bison) runs through the Bronx Zoo’s expansive Bison Range. This is one of six bison calves born at the Bronx Zoo in April and May 2017. The calves were born to a herd of seven females and one male that arrived at the zoo in 2016 from Ft. Peck, Montana as an historic gift from the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes. These bison are from the Yellowstone National Park bloodline, and are among the few pure bison remaining.

(6) Malayan Tiger

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

A sub-adult Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is one of the two cubs born and hand-reared at the Bronx Zoo in 2016. The cubs were pulled and cared for by Bronx Zoo staff because their mother failed to provide appropriate maternal care. Now considerably larger, both young cubs are thriving. The complete story was featured in the first episode of season one of THE ZOO on Animal Planet which premiered in February 2017.

(7) Gaur

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

Gaur (Bos gaurus) are the world’s largest species of wild cattle and are native to India and areas of Southeast Asia. At the Bronx Zoo, gaur can be seen grazing from the Wild Asia Monorail. This photo shows a gaur calf among several adults.

(8) Gharial Crocodilian

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

In spring 2017, the Bronx Zoo added eight Indian gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) to the river habitat in JungleWorld. This is the first time the Bronx Zoo has exhibited the species since 2000. Gharial are a slender-snouted crocodilian native to northern Indian subcontinent. Eighty percent of the remaining world population live in the Chambal River in India — the last stronghold for the species.

(9) Electric Blue Gecko

PHOTO CREDIT: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

An electric blue gecko (Lygodactylus williamsi) clings to a branch in its habitat in the Bronx Zoo. Also known as turquoise dwarf gecko and Williams’ dwarf gecko, the species has several common names. The Bronx Zoo Herpetology Department is breeding this critically endangered species in the Reptile House where adults, juveniles and even eggs can be seen.

(10) Slender-Horned Gazelle


A new habitat for slender-horned gazelles (Gazella leptoceros) was added to the Bronx Zoo’s African Plains in the summer of 2017. The zoo has a long, successful history working with and breeding slender-horned gazelles and the new space is adjacent to the Grevy’s zebras and Thomson’s gazelles, giving observers an opportunity to see multiple African species from one vantage point.

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Stephen Sautner is Executive Director for Communications at WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). Max Pulsinelli is Executive Director of Communications for WCS’s Zoos and Aquariums.



WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.