Rodent with chubby cheeks
Who can resist the comical wiles of a chubby-cheeked rodent like this? (Photo: Julian Rad/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

Thanks to its adorable chubby cheeks and silly dashing gait, a wild European hamster has stolen the show at the 2015 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards or CWPA. The humorous photo titled "Rush Hour" nabbed top honors in the inaugural competition.

Distinguished for its lighthearted focus on the giggle-inducing, serendipitous side of wildlife photography, the photo contest aims to highlight technically excellent images that showcase "the funny side of the majestic creatures we love to photograph and protect."

CWPA founder Paul Joynson-Hicks was inspired to establish the contest through his own experience as a wildlife photographer. As he explains on the competition's website, "I often enter wildlife photography competitions (so far with very little success!), but I love seeing the funny pictures. Strangely enough, they are harder to come by than you might think."

Julian Rad, the Austrian photographer responsible for the winning hamster image, was awarded with an impressive array of prizes, including a trophy, a Nikon D750 camera and a seven-day guided photo safari trip to Tanzania. Meanwhile, the photographers responsible for the silver and bronze award-winning images (below) were awarded some enviable Nikon camera equipment.

'You haven't seen me...': Silver runner-up

Silver runner-up
(Photo: William Richardson/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

'Nearly got it': Bronze runner-up

Bronze runner-up
(Photo: Oli Dreike/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

Before the winners were announced, an esteemed panel of judges sifted through more than 1,500 entries, narrowing them down to 45 finalists. Once the judges had made their final decisions, the winners were announced in a special ceremony in London in November.

"Judging this competition was always going to be fun, but it was also surprisingly difficult. The standard of photography was incredibly high, with a huge range of subjects," explains judge Kate Humble, who is well-known in Britain as a wildlife and travel TV personality. "Not only did we laugh a lot, we were also all reminded of the wide and wonderful variety of creatures we are lucky enough to share our planet with."

Continue below to see a selection of the contest photos honored as "Highly Commended."

Highly Commended
(Photo: Julie Hunt/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Charlie Davidson/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Alison Buttigieg/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Graham McGeorge/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Julian Rad/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Marc Mol/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Megan Lorenz/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Mohammed Alnaser/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Tony Dilger/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended
(Photo: Yuzuru Masuda/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)