Mangrove forests: Crocodile close-up in Cuba wins photo awards

Tanya Houppermans has been named overall winner of this year’s Mangrove Photography Awards, for her close-up portrait of an American crocodile surrounded by mangroves at Gardens of the Queen in Cuba.

Image source, Tanya Houppermans

Run by the Mangrove Action Project, the competition – now in its eighth year – aims to show the relationships between wildlife, coastal communities and mangrove forests, as well as the fragility of these unique ecosystems, both above and below the waterline.

Gardens of the Queen is an archipelago off the coast of Cuba and has been strictly protected since 1996.

It is one of the most untouched marine ecosystems in the world.

“The healthy population of American crocodiles is down to the pristine condition of the mangroves, and I wanted to capture close-ups of this gentle giant in its natural habitat,” said Ms Houppermans.

“I hope this image can illustrate that protecting areas like this is so critical.”

Mangroves are an important protection against climate change, with one acre (4,000sq m) of mangrove forest absorbing nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide as an acre of Amazon rainforest.

The forests also protect coastlines from eroding, as intense storms grow more frequent.

“The Mangrove Photography Awards has become a platform to intrigue people about the magnificent ecological role mangroves play in all of our lives”, said judge Dhritiman Mukherjee.

Fellow judge Octavio Aburto added: “The images from this year captivated our imagination…. giving us hope and illuminating a positive future for mangrove ecosystems.”

Here is a selection of winning images from seven competition categories, with descriptions by the photographers.

Mangroves & Humans winner: Honey Hunters, by Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman, Bangladesh

Image source, Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman

‘Honey Hunters’ collect wild honey deep in the mangroves of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world.

Both recent human development in the area and the climate crisis – in particular the rise in sea-levels – are threatening the ecology of the Sundarbans and with it, the way of life of the Moulis people.

Mangroves & Humans Runner Up: Living in a White Mangrove, by Alex Cao, Vietnam

Image source, Alex Cao

A local fisherman casts his net in the white-flowered mangroves (Lumnitzera racemosa) of Bau Ca Cai, Vietnam, an area allocated to local people to protect.

I took this photo in late autumn when the trees had lost their leaves, highlighting the connection between vulnerable communities and nature.

Mangroves & Landscape winner: Walakiri Dancing Trees, by Loïc Dupuis, Indonesia

Image source, Loïc Dupuis

The sun rises along the peaceful beaches of East Sumba in Indonesia.

I wanted to capture the beauty and fragility of this unique wonder.

Mangroves & Landscape Runner Up: Dreamlife of Mangroves, by Melodi Roberts, USA

Image source, Melodi Roberts

Reflections at dawn on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida.

Mangroves & Wildlife winner: Take Off, by Jayakumar MN, UAE

Image source, Jayakumar MN

A greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) takes off on a migration journey across Asia, and will most likely return to the same coastal wetlands in the winter months.

Mangroves & Wildlife Runner Up: Colhereiro, by Priscila Forone, Brazil

Image source, Priscila Forone

The preserved mangroves of Guaraqueçaba are an important place for visitors, including this pair of Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja).

Mangroves & Underwater winner: Blue Crab, by Martin Broen, Mexico

Image source, Martin Broen

A blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) fishing in a unique transition between fresh and salt water in the Mexican cenotes.

During an exploration dive through the dark flooded caves, I came across this proudly standing crab silhouetted against the mangrove roots above.

Mangroves & Underwater Runner Up: At the Edge, by Jillian E Morris, Bahamas

Image source, Jillian E Morris

I wanted to show a different side of these juvenile lemon sharks: a social side, a more vulnerable side.

Mangroves & Conservation winner: New Normal, by Kei Miyamoto, Indonesia

Image source, Kei Miyamoto

A water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) struggles along the plastic filled forest floor foraging for food.

More and more plastic fills our mangrove forests and it’s affecting our wildlife that call it “home”.

Mangroves & Conservation Runner Up: Mangroves vs Plastics, by Srikanth Mannepuri, India

Image source, Srikanth Mannepuri

A lack of proper waste management systems in nearby villages means parts of the Godavari mangrove forest in India are becoming a dumping area for huge amounts of plastic.

Young Mangrove Photographer of the Year (under 24) winner: Healthy Ecosystem, by Fakhrizal Setiawan, Indonesia

Image source, Fakhrizal Setiawan

College students from North Sulawesi, Indonesia, undertake a zonation exercise, discovering the close relationships between mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses.

Young Mangrove Photographer of the Year (under 24) Runner Up: Destruction of Mangroves, by Katta Devi Sri Kalyan, India

Image source, Katta Devi Sri Kalyan

An area of the Godavari mangroves is now making way for rapidly expanding developments, including aquaculture.

Mangroves & Stories winner: Mangrove Restoration Project in Bonaire, by Lorenzo Mittiga, Netherlands Antilles

Image source, Lorenzo Mittiga

The mangroves [in Bonaire, an island municipality of the Netherlands] support a rich biodiversity and provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans.

Juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster are finding shelter within the submerged roots before their journey to nearby reefs.

All pictures are subject to copyright.

Kenneth Proto

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