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China to announce investigation result of 'paper tiger'
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Chinese authorities will announce on Sunday the result of an investigation into a farmer's photographs of the endangered South China tiger which many people believe were faked.

A purported South China tiger is pictured in this file photo taken by farmer Zhou Zhenglong. [Xinhua]

A press conference will be held in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on Sunday morning, a spokesman with the provincial government said late Saturday.

Xu Chunhua, spokesman for the provincial government, Bai Shaokang, deputy head of the Provincial Department of Public Security Bureau, and Yue Chong, deputy head of the Provincial Department of Supervision will notify the media of the investigation result.

The spokesman did not provide further details.

Zhou Zhenglong, 53, a farmer and former hunter in Chengguan Township of Shaanxi's Zhenping County, was said to have photographed the tiger with a digital camera and on film on the afternoon of October 3 last year.

The tiger photos, first published on October 12, were used by the Provincial Forestry Department as proof the rare tiger still existed in the wild at a press conference. The department awarded Zhou a 20,000 yuan (2,915 U.S. dollars) reward.

But Internet users accused Zhou of making the tiger images with digital software, and local authorities of approving the photos to bolster tourism.

The "paper tiger" saga aroused widespread interest among the public following the appearance of a Lunar New Year commemorative poster whose image of a tiger bore a striking resemblance to the one in Zhou's pictures. Official proof of authenticity was thus strongly demanded.

The embarrassed provincial forestry department apologized to the public in a letter for "curtly publicizing the discovery of the wild South China tiger" in February, but made no comment on the publication's authenticity

The South China tiger, also called the "Amoy" or "Xiamen tiger, " is widely believed to be extinct in the wild. It is thought to be the ancestor of all tigers, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The tiger is considered critically endangered, mainly due to a loss of habitat. By 1996, the tigers numbered only 30 to 80, according to the World Conservation Union's Red List of threatened species.

(Xinhua News Agency June 29, 2008)

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