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A horse makes its way through a cloud of smoke rising from fumigation being done to prevent mosquito-borne diseases in Allahabad, India, on Sept. 9, 2016.
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A horse makes its way through a cloud of smoke rising from fumigation being done to prevent mosquito-borne diseases in Allahabad, India, on Sept. 9, 2016.Rajesh Kumar Singh—AP
A horse makes its way through a cloud of smoke rising from fumigation being done to prevent mosquito-borne diseases in Allahabad, India, on Sept. 9, 2016.
Flamingos after thousands of flamingo chicks have emerged from their nests at Salt Lake, which is home to the biggest flamingo colony in Turkey and the Mediterranean basin, in Aksaray, Turkey, on June 28, 2016.
A pair of tigers soak in a shallow pool at Tiger Temple, a Buddhist monastery where paying visitors can interact with young adult tigers, in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, on March 16, 2016.
Villagers watch as bulls fight during the Maghesangranti festival at Talukachandani village in Nuwakot district near Kathmandu, Nepal, on Jan. 15, 2016.
A Thai veterinarian takes a DNA sample from an unconscious wild monkey during a wild monkey health treatment program at Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park in Phetchaburi province, Thailand, on April 5, 2016.
From left: Maria Silva, Milena Cortes, Maria Arteaga, Jackeline Bastidas and Gissy Abello pose for a picture at the Famproa dogs shelter where they work, in Los Teques, Venezuela, on Aug. 25, 2016.
Several wild horses escape as a helicopter is used by the Bureau of Land Management to gather wild horses into a trap along Highway 21 near the Sulphur Herd Management Area south of Garrison, Utah, on Feb. 26, 2015.
A giant panda cub falls from a stage while 23 giant pandas born in 2016 are seen on a display at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, on Sept. 29, 2016.
A penguin named Nils Olav inspects the Guard of Honour formed by His Majesty the King of Norway's Guard at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, on Aug. 22, 2016.
An Indian elephant takes a dust bath amid rising temperatures at Zirakpur Chattbira Zoo, near Chandigarh, on April 18, 2016.
A dog wanders through a flooded neighborhood in Gonzales, La., on Aug. 16, 2016.
Azat Shajbyrov reacts with a baby falcon on his head in the village of Bokonbaevo, Issyk-Kul area, Kyrgyzstan, on June 22, 2016.
Valerie Nunes-Atkinson and CJ, a German shorthaired pointer, pose for photographers after CJ won best in show at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, on Feb. 16, 2016.
One of three Sperm Whales, which were found washed ashore, lays on a beach in Skegness, England, on Jan. 25, 2016.
A monkey raises its hand in class at a monkey training school in a zoo in Dongying, China, on Jan. 26, 2016.
Australian dog trainer and former surfing champion Chris de Aboitiz rides a wave with his dogs Rama and Millie off Sydney's Palm Beach, Australia, on Feb. 18, 2016.
Male chimpanzee Chacha screams at a man trying to capture him on power lines in a residential area of Sendai, Japan, on April 14, 2016.
Alister Shipman from Britain, right, and Hannah Simpson from Northern Ireland, winners of a competition on the Airbnb accommodation site pose in a bed of an underwater room structure installed in the Aquarium of Paris, in Paris, on April 11, 2016.
Employees save pigs from a flooded farm in Lu'an, Anhui Province, China, on July 5, 2016.
An emu runs to escape an approaching wildfire as it burns near Potrero, Calif., on June 20, 2016.
Bruno, a bearded collie cross, walks in the wind in Newquay in Cornwall, England, on Feb. 8, 2016.
Birds are pictured on the track during the 2016 Rio Olympics, Men's High Jump Final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 16, 2016.
Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel gets in some practice runs before her shows at the Toronto International Boat Show in Toronto, Canada, on Jan. 7, 2016.
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 22: Caroline and David Cuthbertson prepare their Highland bull Altruedh of Crannich for the Royal Highland show at Ingliston showground in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 22, 2016.
A man watches buffalos cross a river as they head to another grazing area in Nanchong, China, on Aug. 10, 2016.
Larry, The Downing Street Cat, stands outside N10 Downing Street in London, on June 24, 2016.
A diver dressed in a monkey costume featuring animal signs from the Chinese zodiac calendar, performs with sardines, in conjunction with Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at an aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, on Jan. 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji - RTX21YHK
Azalea, a 19-year-old female chimpanzee whose Korean name is "Dallae," smokes a cigarette at the Central Zoo in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct. 19, 2016.
Musher Justin Savidis' dogs wait in the truck before the restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow, Alaska, on March 6, 2016.
A female baby polar bear is fed by her mother in Bremerhaven, Germany, on March 9, 2016.
A worker feeds a crocodile named "Shaquille" at an enclosure at the Malabon Zoo in Manila, Philippines, on March 3, 2016.
Sheep take part in the "Lamb National" race during the Prince's Countryside Fund Raceday at Ascot Racecourse in Ascot, England, on April 3, 2016.
A tiger yawns next to a piglet at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, in Chonburi province, Thailand, on June 7, 2016.
A poodle is groomed by its owner on the first day of Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England, on March 10, 2016.
Jason Wurtz of Van Nuys, Calif., holds his dog Sweepee Rambo after winning the 2016 World's Ugliest Dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif., on June 24, 2016.
A baby giraffe of Niger named Kenai, right, born on Aug. 25, 2016, kisses his mother Dioni at the zoo of La Fleche, northwestern France, on on Aug. 31, 2016.
Pierre Thivillon, right, director of the zoological park of Saint-Martin-La-Plaine and his wife Eliane look at Digit, an 18-year-old female gorilla in Saint-Martin-La-Plaine, France, on Aug. 19, 2016.
KENYA-ANIMALS-MIGRATION
An arctic weasel runs on the snowy beach of Unstad , Lofoten Island, in the Arctic Circle, on March 8, 2016.
Cloned dogs in a glass-fronted pen at a care room of the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, a world leader in pet cloning, in Seoul, on June 29, 2016.
A specimen of the newly-discovered Australian Peacock spider, Maratus Bubo, shows off his colourful abdomen in this undated picture from Australia
Soldiers of Chinese People's Liberation Army salute as they perform with their dogs before a dog training competition, in Heihe, China, on Aug. 16, 2016.
An owner takes a picture of her dog as it climbs up on a glass panel while swimming at a pool for dogs in Chengdu, China, on Aug. 16, 2016.
Bjorn, aged 5, smiles as he poses with a owl butterfly during an event to launch the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, on March 23, 2016.
A group of Indian Runner ducks march past farm buildings at the Vergenoegd wine estate near Cape Town, South Africa, on May 11, 2016.
A Iberian lynx named Mistral jumps in a field after being released by Portugal's Minister of Environment Joao Matos Fernandes and others in the Mount Milhouro region in Mertola, Portugal, on May 13, 2016.
TOPSHOT-GREECE-EUROPE-MIGRANTS
Villagers gather to watch two sheep fighting in a sheep competition during a temple fair at Lihejing Village in Hua County, China, on March 22, 2016.
A little girl takes a picture of a lion in the zoo in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 13, 2016.
A man, whose house is covered with snow because of a night long heavy snowfall, tries to clear the path in front of his barn in the Gorentas neighborhood of Catak District in Van, Turkey, on Jan. 21, 2016.
A horse makes its way through a cloud of smoke rising from fumigation being done to prevent mosquito-borne diseases in A
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Rajesh Kumar Singh—AP
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50 Astonishing Animal Photos of 2016

In a year that proved to be more eventful than anticipated, the world of animals provided a sense of comfort. Their cuteness and capacity to entertain by acting out in unexpected, affectionate ways or by mimicking human gestures remain understated.

Whether they're winged or furry, big or small, a few critters made the headlines such as a giant panda cub adorably falling off the stage in China or a penguin of merit inspecting the guards of honor in Scotland. Heartbreaking photographs of starving dogs at a shelter in Venezuela and workers rescuing their pigs from a massive flood in China to the head-scratching 19-year old chimpanzee smoking a cigarette also made waves.

TIME presents a collection of standout images from the animal kingdom shot and shared over the past 12 months.

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