The two lions meet, foreheads together as if exchanging hongi.

The black and white image by New Zealand photographer David Lloyd captures a rare moment between two male lions, most likely brothers.

The photo saw off competition from 24 shortlisted snaps to win pride of place to be crowned LUMIX People's Choice Award winner in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019.

David Lloyd's winning photograph captured a tender moment between two lions. Photo / David Lloyd
David Lloyd's winning photograph captured a tender moment between two lions. Photo / David Lloyd

Whittled down from 45,000 entries, the photo titled Band of Brothers was captured in Tanzania.

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Lloyd, a New Zealander now living in London, was thrilled by the announcement.

He's been entering Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition since its creation in 1991, saying the series "have been and they continue to be, my biggest inspiration."

However after almost three decades, 2019 is Lloyd's year.

"I'm so pleased that this image did well, because it illustrates the emotion and feeling of animals and emphasises that this is not limited to humans. It is something I think more people need to be aware of for the sake of all animals," said the photographer.

Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum which presides over the competition also praised the image, saying: "Lions are individuals with complex social bonds, and David's winning picture provides a glimpse into their inner world."

As well as inspiring future photographers Dixon hopes that it will encourage "more people to take action to protect nature."

The fragile state of nature was reflected in the award's four runner up images.

A Polar Bear's Struggle by Justin Hofman. Photo / Justin Hofman
A Polar Bear's Struggle by Justin Hofman. Photo / Justin Hofman

Justin Hofman's heartbreaking image of an emaciated polar bear was captured in the Canadian arctic desperate for food.

Fox Meets Fox by Matthew Maran. Photo / Matthew Maran
Fox Meets Fox by Matthew Maran. Photo / Matthew Maran

Meanwhile, closer to home, Matthew Maran's photograph of a feral fox camouflaged by graffiti was taken only streets away from the museum in Kensington.

One Toy, Three Dogs by Bence Máté. Photo / Bence Máté
One Toy, Three Dogs by Bence Máté. Photo / Bence Máté

Hungarian photographer Bence Máté' entry shows of three hyenas playing with a impala leg, while Wim Van Den Heever captured three king penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands.

Three Kings by Wim Van Den Heever. Photo / Wim Van Den Heever
Three Kings by Wim Van Den Heever. Photo / Wim Van Den Heever

All five finalists, including Lloyd's winning Band of Brothers, will be displayed in the museum until the end of June, this year.