Doug Gimesy – Ranger Rick Photographer of the Year 2021

On January 12th, Australian photographer Doug Gimesy won the National Wildlife Federation Ranger Rick Photographer of the Year Award 2021.

“Doug brings so much joy and passion to his work as a wildlife photographer—it’s palpable in the photos he presents and the stories he portrays”, said Susan McElhinney, Ranger Rick’s photo editor. “Through his photography, our readers not only learn more about extraordinary wildlife, but are also able to experience his journeys and perspective right from home.”

Doug Gimesy is a Conservation and Wildlife Photojournalist based in Australia. He is also a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He initially trained as a zoologist and then completed a Masters in Environment and Masters in Bioethics. Together, these two qualifications shaped his thinking about the issues he should be focusing on and why.

Doug explains about the importance of images to drive change

To celebrate Doug’s prestigious award, we’ve created a new gallery showcasing a range of his best work, and we asked him to select a set of images and to tell us why they are important to him:

“All these images are important to me because I hope they will, in some way, deeply engage people’s emotions. Not only emotions like curiosity, delight, joy, empathy, hope, but also the darker emotions of sadness, frustration and anger. I believe by engaging emotions people are more likely to act and try to make the world a better place.

That action may be changing personal behaviour (for example slowing down when driving at night, giving wildlife its space). Or it may be supporting those who work to help wildlife. For me, the true power and importance of a conservation and wildlife image comes from its ability to drive positive behaviour. Because, whilst caring is important, if people don’t start doing something, or stop doing something, or do more of something or less of something, nothing will change, and we so need change in the world.”

Important conservation and environmental stories

Doug has documented many important conservation and environmental stories. He works with researchers, conservation groups, animal rescuers and rehabilitation volunteers to bring key issues to the attention of the wider world. Many of these features can be found in the Stories section of the NPL galleries. His photography has a strong documentary focus and mainly covers subjects close to his Australian home. However, he has also worked in Africa and in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic regions.

Here are some great examples of the stories Doug has worked on in recent years. Several, such as his flying fox feature The Night Gardeners, have appeared in Ranger Rick magazine.

Footprints in the Water

With the bill and webbed feet of a duck, broad flat tail of a beaver, and a furry body that closely resembles that of a mole, the platypus is so bizarre that British scientists first thought it was a hoax – stitched together by fraudsters. It is one of only a few mammals that produce venom. And – together with echidnas – it forms a unique branch of egg-laying mammals called monotremes.

Despite what we know about the biological quirks of platypuses, they are so elusive that we still don’t have a solid grasp of their abundance or distribution. However, that is beginning to change. Doug’s exceptionally rare images reveal how citizen science and environmental DNA analysis are opening up new worlds of information about one of our planet’s most unique (and baffling) species. View the full story here.

Recently, Doug facilitated the platypus being listed as a threatened species in his home state of Victoria. This means that the government will now allocate money to help protect and conserve the mysterious mammal.

The Night Gardeners

They’re maligned as fruit thieves, disease carriers and even friends of Dracula. But go beyond the stereotypes, and you’ll find an intelligent, highly social, and affectionate creature that’s even helping to regenerate forests. Also commonly known as a fruit bat, the grey-headed flying fox is one of four mainland species of flying foxes found in Australia. Highly social and intelligent, these megabats act as pollinators and seed dispersal agents for over 100 species of native Australian trees. Doug’s images document the story of a species vital to its ecosystem, and the inspiring people helping to rescue it from a range of threats: persecution, entanglement in tree netting / barbed wire, and the crippling heatwaves which can kill tens of thousands of flying foxes in a matter of days. You can explore our full story PDF here.

My Lockdown Life with Three Baby Wombats

In March 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Melbourne was ordered into lockdown. For wildlife carer Emily Small, that meant working from home in her top-floor apartment – with three orphaned wombats. Emily has been rescuing wombats for seventeen years, ever since she and her mother were handed an orphaned joey to look after. She is the founder of the Goongerah Wombat Orphanage, which she co-manages with her mother Sharon. The facility cares for orphaned, sick and injured wombats, rehabilitating them for release back into the wild.

Doug was privileged to have access to document Emily’s dedicated work in raising the baby wombats. You can read the full story here.

Burn Scars

In the 2019-2020 dry season, record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought fuelled massive bushfires across Australia. Nationwide, more than 12 million hectares burned – an area as large as England. As well as claiming the lives of at least 25 people, the fires had a catastrophic impact on Australian wildlife. One estimate suggests that, in the state of New South Wales alone, more than 800 million animals have been affected. If the states of Victoria and South Australia are included, the figure rises to over one billion.

Doug was one of several NPL photographers who covered this important story – browse the feature here.

Wildlife ER

Doug’s latest photo story is about Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, situated on Queensland’s Gold Coast. One of the busiest wildlife emergency hospitals in the world, it admits around 14,000 animals every year – a service that is provided free of charge to the community. Although the hospital is always bustling, climate change-driven impacts like bushfires and droughts create additional pressure, causing an influx of burnt, starving, dehydrated and heat-stressed animals.

In our full story PDF, Doug provides a glimpse at Australia’s ER for animals. Step through the doors to see how the dedicated staff treat and care for everything from koalas and kookaburras to gliders and geese. The gallery below shows the vital work done at Currumbin, both in the hospital and in the wildlife sanctuary where animals such as Grevillea the rescued greater glider are cared for.

A mission of inspiration and kindness to the world

Doug’s hope is that the images he takes, the stories he tells and the information he shares, will inspire people to stop, think, and treat the world a little more kindly.

Congratulations Doug on your richly deserved award!

Below are some key images that Doug selected from his new photo gallery.