I was sitting on the grass photographing a powerful sunset when I looked back to see this curious giraffe slowly approaching. The distant storm was glowing with the last light of the day, and as I lifted my camera, the giraffe froze for one photo before turning toward the hills of Mikumi, Tanzania.
A reef manta ray dwarfs a researcher in the waters off of Nusa Penida, near Bali.
"On one special day we encountered dozens of reef manta rays feeding at the surface in Nusa Penida," Marine Megafauna Foundation cofounder and National Geographic explorer Andrea Marshall says. "When these giant animals feed they are distracted, and snorkelers can approach them quite closely without disturbing them. It is almost like they go into a trance.
"This individual spent about a half an hour with us, in quite shallow water, weaving in and out between us while feeding on densely concentrated plankton in the surface waters," she says. "As it approached me it reared up a bit and flashed its ventral surface (belly) at me, giving me a glimpse of its natural spot patterning on its underside, which we use to identify between different rays."
Marshall and her team recently created Manta Matcher, an automated online manta ray database. It "stores the patterning of each manta ray sighted across the world and automatically checks for a match every time a new entry is uploaded," Marshall says. "This system will allow researchers to follow the lives of these elusive animals and learn more about their movements and behavior over time."
Wild elephants live in India's fertile Kaziranga floodplain, where marshland, tall grass, and forests provide shelter and food. Kaziranga National Park takes in 50 miles of the Brahmaputra River and harbors some 1,300 elephants.
A red-spotted porcelain crab clings to an anemone in this underwater photo from a member of our Your Shot community. The tiny crustaceans often tuck themselves away under stones, among sponges, amid mussels, and in other hiding spots.
In England, a fallow deer fawn stays close to a buck. Dama dama isn't native to the U.K.; the species is thought to have been introduced to Britain by the Normans in the 11th century. Today it's widespread in England and Wales.
Cheetah siblings rest on a dune in the Kalahari Desert, which covers much of southern Africa, including parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. National Geographic Big Cats Explorer Gus Mills is examining Kalahari cheetahs using trackers, radios, and DNA analyses. This data helps park managers ensure the continued existence of the cheetahs and future monitoring.