Pictures of the year: National Geographic's most stunning images from 2019

National Geographic has released a gallery of its images of the year, which include wolves feasting on an animal corpse, a free solo climber hanging perilously off a cliff and an orphaned giraffe hugging a tribesman.

The TV network meticulously searched through 2 million pictures, from 106 photographers and 121 stories, in order to create a final list that can be viewed here.

Other incredible images include a snap of a member of a Zimbabwean all-female anti-poaching unit called the Akashinga and an image showing a male elephant having a snack in Mozambique.

National Geographic director of visuals and immersive experiences Whitney Johnson had the hard task of choosing the finalists.

She praised her photo editors for helping her choose the 100 images that made it into the gallery.

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Ms Johnson was a big fan of the giraffe picture from photographer Ami Vitale, saying: “The image that speaks most to me is that of an orphaned young giraffe, its long neck draped over its human caregiver in what looks to be a loving hug. 

“The giraffe now runs free with a wild herd. 

“When exploring these pictures, we all might hear from our own internal photo editor, the voice inside us that tells us to pause, asking us to take a closer look.”

Clay, Daniel, and Enzo, three of 39 tigers rescued from an animal park in Oklahoma, gather at a pool at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. They will live out their lives here, with proper nutrition and vet care. (National Geographic/Steve Winter)
National Geographic
Clay, Daniel, and Enzo, three of 39 tigers rescued from an animal park in Oklahoma, gather at a pool at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. They will live out their lives here, with proper nutrition and vet care. (National Geographic/Steve Winter)
Two rats at Karni Mata Temple box to determine which is dominant. Rats are social animals that take good care of their offspring. Studies show they will free a fellow rat from a small cage – even if it means giving up a treat. This suggests to some researchers that rats feel empathy. (National Geographic/Charlie Hamilton James)
National Geographic
Two rats at Karni Mata Temple box to determine which is dominant. Rats are social animals that take good care of their offspring. Studies show they will free a fellow rat from a small cage – even if it means giving up a treat. This suggests to some researchers that rats feel empathy. (National Geographic/Charlie Hamilton James)
Canadian soldiers climb on the wreckage of a plane, roughly a thousand miles south of the North Pole, to scout the area during an Arctic survival course on Cornwallis Island. As the Arctic warms and tensions over its future rise, the Canadian and US militaries have stepped up operations in the region. (National Geographic/Louie Palu)
National Geographic
Canadian soldiers climb on the wreckage of a plane, roughly a thousand miles south of the North Pole, to scout the area during an Arctic survival course on Cornwallis Island. As the Arctic warms and tensions over its future rise, the Canadian and US militaries have stepped up operations in the region. (National Geographic/Louie Palu)
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With California’s Yosemite Valley far beneath him, Alex Honnold free solos – which means climbing without ropes or safety gear – up a crack on the 3,000-foot southwest face of El Capitan. (National Geographic/Jimmy Chin)
National Geographic
With California’s Yosemite Valley far beneath him, Alex Honnold free solos – which means climbing without ropes or safety gear – up a crack on the 3,000-foot southwest face of El Capitan. (National Geographic/Jimmy Chin)
Wearing a parka sewn by her mother, Ashley Hughes spent her 10th birthday camping with friends and family at Ikpikittuarjuk Bay. Hughes took part in the Inuit community’s annual ice fishing competition for arctic char. (National Geographic/David Guttenfelder)
National Geographic
Wearing a parka sewn by her mother, Ashley Hughes spent her 10th birthday camping with friends and family at Ikpikittuarjuk Bay. Hughes took part in the Inuit community’s annual ice fishing competition for arctic char. (National Geographic/David Guttenfelder)
Others at Gotera who have renounced their gang ties pray together. Prison-based evangelical churches in El Salvador are growing. (National Geographic/Karine Aigner)
National Geographic
Others at Gotera who have renounced their gang ties pray together. Prison-based evangelical churches in El Salvador are growing. (National Geographic/Karine Aigner)
Petronella Chigumbura, a member of the Akashinga – a nonprofit, all-female anti-poaching unit – practices reconnaissance techniques in the Zimbabwean bush. (Picture: National Geographic/Brent Stirton)
National Geographic
Petronella Chigumbura, a member of the Akashinga – a nonprofit, all-female anti-poaching unit – practices reconnaissance techniques in the Zimbabwean bush. (Picture: National Geographic/Brent Stirton)
Wolves pick at the remains of a muskox. To get this image, photographer Ronan Donovan placed a camera trap inside the carcass. The pack returned to feed on and off for a month. (National Geographic/Ronan Donovan)
National Geographic
Wolves pick at the remains of a muskox. To get this image, photographer Ronan Donovan placed a camera trap inside the carcass. The pack returned to feed on and off for a month. (National Geographic/Ronan Donovan)
Thousands of migratory songbirds are caught in Florida each year to supply a thriving illegal market. It can sometimes takes weeks of rehabilitation to strengthen the wings of confiscated songbirds so they can fly again. Here, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt Antonio Dominguez releases rose-breasted grosbeaks back into the wild. (National Geographic/Karine Aigner)
National Geographic
Thousands of migratory songbirds are caught in Florida each year to supply a thriving illegal market. It can sometimes takes weeks of rehabilitation to strengthen the wings of confiscated songbirds so they can fly again. Here, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt Antonio Dominguez releases rose-breasted grosbeaks back into the wild. (National Geographic/Karine Aigner)
A teenager is dusted with sand from toiling in a mine. He is one of many Nigeriens who joined the rush for gold in the north, the last hope for jobless men after tourism plunged, uranium mining declined, and a law made transporting migrants a crime. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
National Geographic
A teenager is dusted with sand from toiling in a mine. He is one of many Nigeriens who joined the rush for gold in the north, the last hope for jobless men after tourism plunged, uranium mining declined, and a law made transporting migrants a crime. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
Marines have to be able to carry one another if necessary. USMC Cpl Gabrielle Green hefts a fellow marine as they ready for deployment on a Navy ship at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Of the 38,000 recruits who enter the corps each year, about 3,500 are women. (National Geographic/Lynsey Addario)
National Geographic
Marines have to be able to carry one another if necessary. USMC Cpl Gabrielle Green hefts a fellow marine as they ready for deployment on a Navy ship at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Of the 38,000 recruits who enter the corps each year, about 3,500 are women. (National Geographic/Lynsey Addario)
Encased in polyvinyl alcohol, Susan Potter’s body awaits freezing. (National Geographic/Lynn Johnson)
National Geographic
Encased in polyvinyl alcohol, Susan Potter’s body awaits freezing. (National Geographic/Lynn Johnson)
Canadian soldiers build an igloo during the high Arctic phase of their training to become Arctic operations advisors. In this part of the programme, they learn to travel, survive, and build shelters when they reach the high Arctic. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
National Geographic
Canadian soldiers build an igloo during the high Arctic phase of their training to become Arctic operations advisors. In this part of the programme, they learn to travel, survive, and build shelters when they reach the high Arctic. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
Some 400 US soldiers practice parachute jumps near Alaska’s Fort Greely. The multinational exercise, which includes Canadian forces, prepares troops for the rigours of large, coordinated operations in extreme cold conditions. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
National Geographic
Some 400 US soldiers practice parachute jumps near Alaska’s Fort Greely. The multinational exercise, which includes Canadian forces, prepares troops for the rigours of large, coordinated operations in extreme cold conditions. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
Buyers choose animals at the livestock market and send them to this slaughterhouse in Agadez, Niger, where camels, goats, sheep, and other animals are killed and then sent to butchers who sell the meat. (Picture: National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
National Geographic
Buyers choose animals at the livestock market and send them to this slaughterhouse in Agadez, Niger, where camels, goats, sheep, and other animals are killed and then sent to butchers who sell the meat. (Picture: National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
In Agadez, Niger, an Izala school educates about 1,300 students. Izala is a back-to-basics Islamic reformist movement that adheres to conservative practices, such as women covering their faces, but also prizes education. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
National Geographic
In Agadez, Niger, an Izala school educates about 1,300 students. Izala is a back-to-basics Islamic reformist movement that adheres to conservative practices, such as women covering their faces, but also prizes education. (National Geographic/Pascal Maitre)
Cynthia Ikirezi (centre) beams with her fellow prefects, student leaders, at Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda. Educating girls and preparing them for leadership roles are government priorities to empower women. (National Geographic/Yagazie Emezi)
National Geographic
Cynthia Ikirezi (centre) beams with her fellow prefects, student leaders, at Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda. Educating girls and preparing them for leadership roles are government priorities to empower women. (National Geographic/Yagazie Emezi)
ssa Diakite, 50, built both his barbell and his home, one of dozens of chabolas clustered near an Andalusian agricultural region. Originally from Mali, he settled in as a regular field-worker and now helps others construct solid shacks. (Picture: National Geographic/Yagazie Emezi)
National Geographic
ssa Diakite, 50, built both his barbell and his home, one of dozens of chabolas clustered near an Andalusian agricultural region. Originally from Mali, he settled in as a regular field-worker and now helps others construct solid shacks. (Picture: National Geographic/Yagazie Emezi)
An orphaned giraffe nuzzles a caregiver at Sarara Camp in northern Kenya. Samburu cattle herders found the abandoned calf and alerted Sarara – known for raising orphaned mammals and returning them to their habitat. The young giraffe now lives with a wild herd. (National Geographic/Ami Vitale)
National Geographic
An orphaned giraffe nuzzles a caregiver at Sarara Camp in northern Kenya. Samburu cattle herders found the abandoned calf and alerted Sarara – known for raising orphaned mammals and returning them to their habitat. The young giraffe now lives with a wild herd. (National Geographic/Ami Vitale)
A male elephant grabs an evening snack in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Most of the park’s elephants were killed for their ivory, used to buy weapons during the nation’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1992. With poaching controlled, the population is recovering. (National Geographic/Charlie Hamilton-James)
National Geographic
A male elephant grabs an evening snack in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Most of the park’s elephants were killed for their ivory, used to buy weapons during the nation’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1992. With poaching controlled, the population is recovering. (National Geographic/Charlie Hamilton-James)

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