In the smartphone era, it’s pretty common to be captured on camera in the middle of an awkward moment or with an unintentionally silly expression on your face. It happens to animals, too—and their candid-camera gaffes often look surprisingly similar to ours.
Highlighting this anthropomorphic trend in goofy animal photos is sort of the whole point of The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, a project conceived in 2015 by Tanzania-based wildlife photographer Paul Joynson-Hicks and brought to life with the help of Tom Sullam and Michelle Wood.
“To really understand animals and the issues that affect them, you need to empathize with them as fellow inhabitants of the same planet,” the organization’s website explains. In other words, seeing a moose seemingly cheesing for the camera in a way that looks strangely human might make you care a little more when you hear about how climate change is threatening the species. It’s comedy with a conservationist mission. Joynson-Hicks and his cohort team up with a different charitable organization each year; for 2022, it’s the UK-based Whitley Fund for Nature, which gives out grants to conservationists across the Global South.
This year’s 40-photo shortlist includes some especially spectacular snapshots, from a winking fox and a flatulent zebra to a lion cub who appears to have waged war with a tree trunk and lost.
There are also a number of images that scream “Relatable!” (not to mention a few in which the animals are literally just screaming). Among them are a couple of eastern screech owls that embody what it’s like to share a cramped apartment with your partner; a long-tailed macaque reflecting the face of every exhausted parent ever; and a cassowary with an uncanny resemblance to that co-worker who’s always a little too excited about what you brought for lunch.
And we’d be remiss not to spotlight the red squirrel who’s clearly gunning to be cast in the next Marvel movie—no stunt double necessary.
A cross-section of leaders in entertainment, conservation, and wildlife photography will select the official winning photos—but there’s also a people’s choice award that you can vote on through November 27. Your vote will automatically enter you for a chance to win £500 (about $570).