NEWS > Mainland
Tiger photos raise questions
2007-10-22 03:03:07 Shanghai Daily

The picture shows a wild South China tiger, a subspecies believed to have been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years, which was photographed by a local farmer on October 3 near a cliff in Zhenping County, Shaanxi Province.

A FARMER who photographed a rare South China tiger will report to the State Forestry Administration as questions arise about the authenticity of his photo, the Beijing News reported today.

Zhou Zhenglong, 52, a farmer and former hunter in Zhenping County, Shaanxi Province, photographed a South China tiger with a digital camera on the afternoon of October 3. Local experts have confirmed the animals on the 40 digital pictures and 31 film photographs is a South China tiger and the pictures were not faked.

The South China tiger was believed to have been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years.

However, many suspicious points surfaced in the photo, including the angle of the sunlight and the size of some leaves.

A person identified as Gan Yu has told Guangzhou Daily that the photo is "definitely fake," adding the fraud was plotted by Zhou, his brother-in-law Xie Kunquan and some officials from the local forestry bureau.

Xie opened a printing store near the county's public security bureau and he lent the camera to Zhou, the tipster said.

Xie's elder brother Xie Kunyuan is the county's trade bureau director, the tipster said.

"I've never seen such a clumsy plot" Gan said.

Xie Kunquan reputed that he did lend the camera to Zhou but they never cheated others.

"I know many people across the country don't believe me, which is normal because Zhou and I are relatives," Xie said.

"But I have not benefited by making a fake tiger photo and I won't breach the law," Xie said.

Huang Changguo, a former guide with the Shaanxi South China tiger investigation team, also doubts the authenticity of the photos because none of the 50 cows living on the mountain have been attacked in the past three years, the report said.

"If a tiger lives in the mountain, it's impossible that no cow was eaten in three years," Huang sadi.

Huang also said the size of leaves in the photo is suspicious.

"We have lived here for more than 30 years and know that the biggest leaf here is 20-centimeters wide, which can't cover a tiger's head," Huang said.

In some of Zhou's photos, the tiger's head was covered by leaves.

A reporter who tried to probe the scene where the tiger was spotted was seized by local police on Saturday because he entered the natural reserve zone without approval, the report said.

His photos were all deleted by the police.

Chinese forestry authorities have banned all hunting around the mountain and the Forestry Department of Shaanxi Province also ordered checkpoints at the main entrances to the mountain area to prevent uncontrolled entry and protect the endangered species and its habitat.

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