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Photos of South China tiger faked

July 1, 2008 | 11:55 am

South_china_tiger_photos_faked

The tale of the tiger started last October when local forestry officials in China's Shaanxi province held a news conference and released what they said was a photo of a rare South China tiger in the wild, a sight not seen since the 1960s.

But The Times' Mark Magnier reports that the story and its photos always seemed too good to be true:

This weekend, local authorities revealed after months of delay that the pictures had been staged using a poster cutout. Police also produced a paw made of wood they said had been used to make prints in the snow.

Zhou Zhenglong, 54, a farmer and local guide who took the photographs, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of fraud. And 13 officials in Shaanxi province in central China have been fired or disciplined, the government announced Sunday.

The revelations in the "paper tiger" case were driven by persistent Internet activists who demanded answers from Zhou and local officials. The case has also spurred a heated debate over cover-ups, culpability and corruption, as well as whether Zhou was forced to take the fall for powerful officials.

Zhou was paid $2,915 for the photographs by the local forestry department, which was reportedly trying to start a nature reserve, seeking over $1 million from Beijing in funding and pushing to boost tourism. Zhou, who had acted as a guide for animal protection officials, had originally been led to believe the photos might be worth as much as $140,000.

Looks like Hollywood isn't the only place guilty of doctoring what appears as reality. Local officials in the tiger case said they were "reflecting on their mistakes."

Speaking of tigers in China, a Times editorial today urges the Chinese government to close the country's tiger farms in order to save them from extinction and abuse.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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