In a photograph that won Christian Ziegler “Highly Commended Image” at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, a bonobo ape appears to be cuddling a mongoose as if it were a pet.

Perfectly capturing the mystery and technical brilliance that are the standards for the competition, held by the Natural History Museum in London, this incredible story-in-a-photo ended later on, when the bonobo released the mongoose which went on its way.

Now in its 58th year, the competition will nominate 100 entries for judging, selected from tens of thousands of submissions.

“What’s stayed with me is not just the extraordinary mix of subjects in this year’s collection – a vast panorama of the natural world—but the emotional strength of so many of the pictures,” said chair of the judging panel, Roz Kidman Cox.

Ziegler was exploring bonobo habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo, wading chest deep flooded forest for days in Salonga National Park.

Coming across a young male bonobo, he noticed the ape was holding a mongoose in his hand.

“I was so surprised to see how he carried the mongoose with such care. I immediately started to follow him and document it,” he told BBC News.

The motives of the ape are questionable, as they do hunt animals, but with his free hand gently wrapping under the arm holding the mongoose, signs of aggression were few.

The BBC also heard from Dr. Barbara Fruth, director of an organization that has observed bonobos for 20 years, and who said that “we know from captivity bonobos care for individuals other than their own species.”

Other entries

Southern Right whale – Richard Robinson/Natural History Museum

The populations of this once-Endangered southern right whale are now returning to vast numbers, and this particular juvenile had a particular interest in the camera and person of Richard Robinson.

In the category of “animal portraits” this photograph was selected as a finalist.

Coconut octopus peeks out of clam shell; nominated in 15-17-year-old category – Samuel Sloss/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Not to be outdone, this coconut octopus decided to strut his colors and coils from inside a “borrowed” clam shell for Samuel Sloss.

While muck diving in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sloss noticed the home invader, who promptly closed the shell during Sloss’ attempts at picture taking. Eventually though, he opened up and gave Sloss a finalist spot in the 15-17-year-old category.

‘The Swimming Pool‘ captures breeding frenzy of tree frogs – Brandon Guell/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Like Ziegler, Photographer Brandon Guell had to spent days wading through chest deep water to photograph an early dawn phenomenon that only happens a few times a year in very few places.

These green tree frogs are about to have a breeding frenzy on these stalks of grass in Costa Rica. Each female lays 200 eggs, which eventually fall into the water below and become tadpoles.

Dmitry Kokh/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Abandoned since 1992, Kolyuchin Island in Russia has been claimed by polar bears who, as a result of shrinking sea ice, are forced into scavenging the remains of industrial civilization.

A low-noise drone was used to capture this excellent portrait of a bear that had taken a break on a windowsill.

European perch in Finland – Tiina Törmänen/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Tiina Törmänen got the cooperation for a photo from this lively group of European perch swimming through clouds of algae in a lake in Posio, Lapland.

The algae is actually the result of warmer weather allowing these microscopic plants to bloom in great, problematic numbers, as these perch bear witness.

All 100 finalists can be seen on the Natural History Museum website, and a winner will be selected for each category in early October.