Nature, third prize stories
Hanifaru Bay, Maldives
A whale shark breaks the surface while waiting to capture plankton drifting in on the tide, in the Hanifaru Bay marine reserve.
Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are slow-moving, filter-feeding sharks found in tropical and warm oceans, and are the largest non-mammalian vertebrates on the planet. The species originated some 60 million years ago, and individuals normally have a lifespan of around 70 years.
Currently, however, whale sharks are listed as a vulnerable species. They come under particular threat from pollution and strikes by boat propellers, and are also hunted for their fins and flesh.
The sharks feed by drifting with their capacious mouths open, drawing in plankton, fish, and small crustaceans. Foreign objects, such as plastic, can also be drawn into the shark’s digestive system, causing harm.
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Thomas P. Peschak
About the photographer
Thomas P. Peschak
Thomas P. Peschak is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine and a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP).
Born in Germany and based in South Africa, he spends 300 days a year on assignment in various parts of the world. Formally trained as a marine biologist, Peschak later transitioned into a full-time career in environmental photojournalism, realizing that he could have a bigger conservation impact with his photographs. He began this career specializing in photographing Africa's marine and coastal biodiversity, and produced three books on the subject: Currents of Contrast, Great White Shark and Wild Seas Secret Shores.
He has since broadened his geographic scope to include the wider regions of the Indian Ocean and Arabia. His most recent book, Lost World (2009) profiles the marine environment of Aldabra and the Seychelles. He is currently working on his fifth book, Sharks and People, which chronicles the relationship between people and sharks at more than two dozens locations around the world.
A dedicated conservation photographer, he believes photographs are the most effective weapons in conservation today. His feature story on manta rays of the Maldives appeared in National Geographic in 2009 and resulted in the proclamation of a marine reserve and protection for these rays. Peschak has also served as the official photographer for WWF-South Africa and chief photographer for the Save our Seas Foundation for many years. His photo features have appeared in publications such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Vanity Fair, Paris Match, Africa Geographic and many others. Thomas is multiple winner of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.