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Napping polar bear image wins top wildlife photography prize

By Hafsa Khalil, CNN

London (CNN) — An image of a napping polar bear curled up on an iceberg has captured the hearts of voters to become the winner of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice Award.

British amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani called it an honor to win the award for the dreamy scene “Ice Bed,” captured off Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, saying that the image “stirred strong emotions,” such as hope, in those who saw it.

“Whilst climate change is the biggest challenge we face, I hope that this photograph also inspires hope; there is still time to fix the mess we have caused,” Sarikhani added in a press release.

Organizers said more than 75,000 people voted in the competition — a record number.

“Ice Bed” was chosen from a shortlist of 25 images, which was previously narrowed down from around 50,000 entries. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.

Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, described the winning shot as “poignant” and “breathtaking.”

The “thought-provoking image is a stark reminder of the integral bond between an animal and its habitat and serves as a visual representation of the detrimental impacts of climate warming and habitat loss,” Gurr said in the release.

As well as the winner, there were four highly commended finalists. All five images will be exhibited at the Natural History Museum in London until June 30.

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Scroll through the gallery above to see the winner and highly commended images.

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