The touring Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition returns to Beverley Art Gallery tomorrow. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

IF you haven't been to Beverley for a while, then here's the perfect excuse...

The hugely popular touring Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition returns to the town's art gallery tomorrow.

Visitors will be able to see 100 acclaimed photographs by all the latest category winners and finalists. And stunning photographs they are, giving you a unique insight into the lives of some of the world's most unique wild creatures.

In one stunning image, for which he won the overall 'Young wildlife photographer of the year' title, 16-year-old Daniël Nelson from the Netherlands got up close and personal with a family of gorillas in the Congo after a three-hour trek through the forest. His photograph, entitled simply The Good Life, shows a young gorilla possessively clutching a breadfruit on the forest floor, as if to say 'this is mine'. It is an image which makes you realise immediately just how closely related to us these great apes are: and what a tragedy it would be if our exploitation of the forests led to them becoming extinct once and for all.

For his photograph Arctic Treasure, Russian Sergey Gorshkov travelled to remote Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea north of Siberia in May, when a quarter of a million snow geese arrive for the breeding season. There, he captured an arctic fox, which had just stolen a snow goose egg to make a meal. The fox's expression - wary, intent - is like that of thieves everywhere.

American Tony Wu was on hand to record an extraordinary underwater gathering of dozens of giant sperm whales - a real meeting of the clans. The giant mammals rubbed and rolled against each-other in greeting. And Tony managed to capture something both of their ponderous grace and of the bonds between the animals.

Perhaps the saddest of all the photographs on display seems innocent enough at first glance - a seahorse floating in the turquoise waters off the coast of Indonesia. It is only when you look closer that you realise what is actually going on.

Seahorses, which are poor swimmers, often anchor themselves to floating sea-grasses or pieces of coral by clinging to them with their prehensile tails.

Photographer Justin Hofman watched, delighted, as one seahorse bounced from one piece of natural debris to the next.

But then a surge of human rubbish and sewage began to sluice towards the shore - and the creature seized upon a discarded cotton bud as its anchor. "This tiny sea horse drifted through our snorkeling site along with a raft of tide-driven trash, especially bits of plastic. It was a heartbreaking scene," Justin says.

Beauty, kinship, tragedy and heartbreak: it's all there in this one stunning exhibition.

Last year's touring Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition brought record numbers to the Beverley Art Gallery in the town's Treasure House.

"I have no doubt that the new exhibition will prove just as popular," said East Riding of Yorkshire councillor Richard Burton.

He could well be right...


The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, runs at the Beverley Art Gallery in the Treasure House, Beverley, from Saturday July 14 until September 8.