Surreal photo of mice in ‘boxing match’ on London subway platform bags top wildlife photography prize

Rowley spent five nights laying down on grimy station platforms to photograph the tiny tube-dwellers. — Picture via Instagram/samrowleywild
Rowley spent five nights laying down on grimy station platforms to photograph the tiny tube-dwellers. — Picture via Instagram/samrowleywild

PETALING JAYA, Feb 14 — An image of two mice fighting over food on a subway platform has bagged Sam Rowley the Wildlife Photographer of the Year title from London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

An estimated two million people pass through London’s tube network daily and Rowley’s photo, named “Station Squabble”, shows how nature survives in the underground tunnels thanks to food crumbs dropped by hungry commuters.

In a press release posted on the NHM website, Rowley said he spent five nights trawling through the station platforms and laying down on grubby floors to photograph the tiny creatures.

It proved to be a challenge as the mice scurried for cover every time a train screeched into the station and commuters began flooding the platforms.

“These mice only know the constant roar of trains and perpetual darkness. Most won't have ever seen daylight or felt grass under their feet.

“The tunnels are a desperate place to live if they need to have a boxing match over a tiny little crumb,” said Rowley, whose photo beat 48,000 other images to be shortlisted for public voting.

 

The urban wildlife photographer said it was a lifetime dream to win the NHM’s top photography prize and hoped that his work would shine a light on the “unexpected drama” that often unfolds in familiar, urban environments.

NHM director Sir Michael Dixon added that Rowley’s photo provides an illuminating insight into how urban wildlife functions in human-dominated environments.

“The mice's behaviour is sculpted by our daily routine, the transport we use and the food we discard.

“This image reminds us that while we may wander past it every day, humans are inherently intertwined with the nature that is on our doorstep.

“I hope it inspires people to think about and value this relationship more,” said Dixon.

Rowley also shared some funny anecdotes and the conversations he had with curious commuters who watched as he laid down on the platform to photograph the furry critters.

“I was lying down, snapping away, when out of nowhere there was a man lying on top of me. 

“He immediately apologised and told me he'd thought I was having a heart attack!

“I guess watching me crawling along the platform was a good way to break up the monotony of the wait for the train. The only annoying thing was in (talking to me), they scared off my mice.”