Russian leader Vladimir Putin's tiger tale challenged
Every day on WorldNow we choose an amazing photo from around the world. Today our eye was drawn to a shot of Vladimir Putin with a tiger he reportedly shot with a tranquilizer gun, allowing it to be tracked to help Russian preservationists save the big cats.
It's an old photo, but it's getting a lot of attention today -- and not for reasons that Putin will like.
A Russian environmentalist says photos and video of the reported shooting reveal that it's possible that Putin shot a docile animal from a zoo, not a wild tiger, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Dmitry Molodtsov says there's a marked difference between the tiger that Putin was shown shooting in 2008 and the one shown later on his website as having been released back into the wild.
Molodtsov said the telltale sign was the stripes. He compared video of Putin shooting a tiger with photos that purported to show him with the same tranquilized tiger, pointing out differences in its fur.
Here's a photo from his website, Bigcats.ru, pointing out differences in the tiger markings:
Molodtsov also compared the image with another photo of a Khabarovsk Zoo tiger, saying there was a 99.9% probability it was the same tiger.
"It had nothing to do with environmental protection and the preservation of tigers," Molodtsov wrote in Russian on his website. "The purpose was only to increase Putin's ratings."
Natalya Remennikova, who works at the government institute in charge of the tiger preservation program, told the Associated Press that the claim was false, possibly calculated to smear Putin. Putin has served as prime minister for four years and recently won the presidency again -- his inauguration is scheduled in May -- in an election that generated accusations of fraud. Putin previously served two terms as president.
He has been accused of staging photos before: In October, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted that ancient Greek urns had been planted in shallow water for him to find while scuba diving, the Guardian reported.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Vladimir Putin, left, looks at a tranquilized tiger as researchers put a collar with a satellite tracker on the animal in Russia's Far East in 2008. Credit: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti