SINGAPORE: A photographer in Singapore was awarded the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the year on Wednesday (Dec 13).
Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan's photo of a male orangutan peering from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, was picked by a panel of judges among 11,000 photo submissions, winning the grand prize of US$7,500 (S$10,141).
In their Instagram account, National Geographic said that Mr Bojan, an Indian citizen based in Singapore, impressed judges with his "poignant image" of the animal.
The photo, which also won first place in the wildlife category, "spoke to the impact deforestation is having on the habitat of this critical endangered species", said the publication.
Mr Bojan explains in his photo caption why the orangutan is seen crossing the river: "Rampant palm oil cultivation threatens this critically endangered ape, forcing the normally arboreal species to resort to unusual behaviour - such as wading through crocodile-infested rivers - in order to survive."
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Mr Bojan said he was "humbled, thrilled and thankful to God" when he learned he won the awards.
He said that he was especially happy especially because the photo would "bring more attention to their (orangutan) plight due to loss of habitat in Borneo".
The freelance nature photographer said he was living on a boat on the Sekonyer River in southern Borneo when he heard from a local ranger of an orangutan occasionally crossing the river.
After two days of waiting, Mr Bojan said he was "thrilled to witness this rare moment" when the orangutan appeared.
"I decided to get into the five-foot deep river to get some unique perspectives of this amazing moment," he said.
Fortunately there were no crocodiles around that time, added Mr Bojan, who was then accompanied by a local boatman and orangutan conservationist.
Mr Bojan said he loved photographing primates as he felt that they "are so close to us humans in so many ways". He has gone to Vietnam and Indonesia to take a series of photographs on them.
Mr Bojan said he was inspired to do so after coming across these highly endangered species at the Singapore Zoo. Though there is not much wildlife in Singapore, he said it was "heartwarming" that the community puts in effort "to protect every bit of wildlife they have".
Mr Bojan's winning image will be published in an upcoming issue of National Geographic magazine.