China says field survey fails to find tiger at controversial photo

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China says field survey fails to find tiger at controversial photo
2008-03-04 07:13:05

BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) — Months of field survey by experts
from the State Forestry Administration of China has failed to find
any “concrete evidence” of South China tiger in Zhenping county,
Shaanxi province, where controversial tiger photos were taken in

However, the field survey will last for a while and the team will
publicize the results as soon as it is finished, said Yin Hong,
deputy director of the administration Monday.

Shaanxi province forestry bureau released photos in October taken
by a local farmer named Zhou Zhenglong, saying that the photos were
proof that the extremely rare cat was not extinct in the wild as
previously thought.

Suspicions about the authenticity of the photos were raised on
the Internet almost immediately. It was pointed out the tiger, one of
the most fierce animals on the earth, did not move at all during
dozens of minutes when the photos were taken.

The bureau gave a cash award to Zhou and said it would apply for
state funding for the establishment of a tiger reserve.

Several unofficial assessments have indicated that the photos
were fake.

Enraged critics accused the bureau of deliberately ignoring the
truth for local economic benefits.

Amid heated debate over the genuineness of the photos and
motivation of the bureau, the administration sent a team to the
county to trace the South China tiger,

Arriving on Nov. 10, the team searched in an area of 200,000
hectares, interviewed more than 20 villagers who claimed to see the
tiger and set up 26 infrared cameras in the area, said Yin.

The State Forestry Administration’s latest comment came after a
deputy to China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress,
vowed early Monday to pressure forestry authorities into telling the
public whether the photos were true or false.

Xu Yuanyuan, the deputy to the annual parliament session set to
open in Beijing on Wednesday, said she was ready to raise the topic
at the session and put forth her suggestion.

However, Yin Hong said authenticating the photos is not the
administration’s responsibility.

Last December, the State Forestry Administration demanded the
Shaanxi forestry bureau having the photos authenticated by a panel of
experts, but the test has not even started yet, according to related

The Shaanxi bureau apologized in February for “curtly publicizing
the discovery of the wild South China Tiger”, but said nothing about
their authenticity.

In sharp contrast to the tiger mystery, award-winning
photographer Liu Weiqiang, 41, admitted last month he faked a picture
showing Tibetan antelopes roaming calmly underneath a bridge where a
train roared past.

Liu apologized to the public, resigned from the northeast
Chinanews paper he was working, and had his contracts terminated with
five leading Chinese media organizations including Xinhua News

This has prompted a renewed public anxiety in seeking truth about
the tiger mystery.

According to an online poll by several leading Chinese websites
including and, the paper saga is one of the
major issues the public wishes the forthcoming parliament session to
address, alongside price hikes, housing, education and medical

The wild South China tigers, an endangered tiger subspecies
believed to have been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years, is
listed as one of the world’s ten most endangered animals.

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