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Animal pictures of the year.

October 9, 2011
An unlucky pigeon takes its final look at the world – peeking out from a pelican’s beak. The little bird had been eating near a pond in St James Park, London, when it was scooped up by the much bigger bird. Adults and children watched in horror as the pigeon tried desperately to escape for 15 minutes. At one point it looked like it was going to break free as the pelican opened its beak, allowing the pigeon to gaze out. But the startled creature missed its opportunity and was swallowed whole. Photographer Paul Mansfield, 44, captured the remarkable scene while on a day trip to the capital with his family.

Madhuri, an Indian elephant, swings a monitor lizard around by its tail. The unlucky creature had been swept off the ground and was carried around for a number of days by the elephant. With its tail firmly clamped in the animal’s trunk the lizard was swung around and occasionally put back on the ground. The scene was captured by Jagdeep Rajput during a trip to Corbett National Park in India.

A mouse looks out from the jaws of a huge voracious African bullfrog. These carnivorous amphibians have an aggressive temper and can jump 3.5 metres.

This tiny starling didn’t stand a chance when a hungry bald eagle swooped in for a mid-air snack. The bird flies on, unaware of the enormous predator closing in behind it.

A duck flies off in alarm as an osprey swoops in to catch its lunch. The photo was captured by photographer Lee Fisher at a lake in the highlands of Scotland.

Photographer Steve Shinn caught the moment luck ran out for one poor gopher. Steve was snapping great egrets in California when he captured an egret sneaking up on a gopher and then skewering and gobbling it down.

A jaguar and a caiman battle in the Pantanal region of Brazil. Eventually the big cat defeated the reptile in the vicious encounter, which was captured on camera by French photographer Patrick Fagot.

A jackal and a vulture face off after setting their sights on the same scrap of meat. Although the meat was closely guarded by the bird the jackal thought he’d try his luck – but he obviously hadn’t bargained for a fight. The picture was taken by husband and wife Lizet and Johann Grobbelaar at Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

A prairie dog is attacked by starlings for a nut at St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri.

Wildlife enthusiast Jimmy Hoffman, 50, scours the vegetation around his home in the Costa Brava, Spain, looking for praying mantises. After finding his subjects, Mr Hoffman can spend up to two hours waiting to get the perfect shot. He said: “My favourite picture is of a mantis about to catch a butterfly. Unfortunately for the mantis the butterfly was too fast and managed to fly away before it could be caught. I got my picture at exactly the right moment and it was very special for me because I had waited a couple of hours for something interesting to happen. After that I decided to called the picture ‘patience'”…

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