Behind the image: Springbok at sunrise

A picture paints a thousand words, or so it seems with this overall winner of our annual BMC Ecology competition. Davide Gaglio, a conservation biologist based at the University of Cape Town, captured this stunning image of Springbok grazing in South Africa. Here in this Q&A, he tells us more about his winning image.

What type of research are you involved in?

I am interested in studying the conflict between wildlife and human activities. In particular I am involved in a research project investigating seabirds life history traits to better understand the impact of commercial fisheries and environmental change on marine ecosystem dynamics.

Why did you become interested in this area of research?

I born and raised on an Island (Sicily) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and I’ve always lived along the shoreline. A few years ago, while in Australia, I faced the Ocean for the first time. In that moment I realized that despite my passion and knowledge about marine ecosystems, there was so much more to discover.

The lower branches of the tree frame both springbok as one reaches the closest leaves for it’s morning bite.

In 2013, I moved to South Africa where I started my PhD research project at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and University of Cape Town. Here, I found that my dreams had come true as my research had allowed me to live on offshore islands for long periods of time. During this time, I developed a particular relationship with the ocean and as of today, marine conservation is one of the main interests in my life.

Where and how was this photo taken?

This photo was taken in Kgalagadi transfontier national park in South Africa.

Why were you there at the time?

I actually was on my honeymoon… I know that a desert is not the first thing that comes to your mind when you are planning a honeymoon, but for me and my wife it was! Since we’re both nature lovers (and after several months spent in the ocean) we decided to skip the traditional beach/island kind of honeymoon and head for an 11 day trip  to South Africa. Here, we discovered the beauty of the Kgalagadi transfontier national park; we were not left disappointed!

Can you explain a bit more about the image?

My photo shows the striking landscape of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park during sunrise. This southern African park is characterized by vast arid landscapes, red dunes, sparse vegetation, acacia trees and springbok (which are quite common in this park).

Since we’d visited during the summer, all animals spent most of their day hiding in the shade of trees to avoid overheating. I feel that the best time to see animals and admire their behavior is at sunrise. This is when the air is still fresh and both predator and prey need food and water.

What about this scene particularly interested you?

Against the backdrop of a beautiful morning sky, this image captures the silhouettes of two Springbok under a camel thorn tree.  The lower branches of the tree frame both springbok as one reaches the closest leaves for it’s morning bite.

Just seeing it brings me back to that special morning, the beauty of such simple, natural behavior.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the best places in South Africa to capture images of large predators, however, visitors are often so desperate to see where a big cat was recently observed that they never truly appreciate the beauty of the landscape. Wildlife photography, for me, is so much more than an extreme close up of predators! As displayed in this photo, even a common species such as the springbok, when nicely composed in his environment, this can result in a memorable image that describes this beautiful ecosystem.

Why did you enter this image in the competition, and how do you feel now you’ve won?

I was very happy to capture this shot and just seeing it brings me back to that special morning. It displays the beauty of such a simple, natural behavior against the beautiful Kalagadi sunrise; something I was happy to share with others. I hope this photo can be used as an inspiration to help others enjoy the simplicity of nature and take note of the beauty that surrounds us. And of course I’m even more happy to have won!

To see more of Davide’s work, check out his Research page and photography site 

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