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Photos of South China Tiger confirmed fake
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A latest conclusion reached by experts in digital imaging, zoology and botany who attended an appraisal conference organised by China Photographers Association in Beijing on Sunday, confirmed that the photos of a would-be extinct wild South China tiger are completely fake and in fact replicas of a traditional Chinese lunar new year picture, Beijing Times reported.

Chinese lunar new year pictures are a type of mass-printed pictures of a certain piece of original Chinese painting, which is often designed on China's Lunar New year, just to give people a sense of festive atmosphere and happiness.

By carrying out scientific experiments on the 40 some South China tiger photos provided by Chinese website, experts from the Digital Image Identification Centre of the China Photographers Association showed that the tiger in all those photos takes the exact same posture, which doesn't confirm to the general rule of wildlife photography. Furthermore, the photos don't show any stereoscopic elements.

Hu Huijian, a zoologist and expert on South China tiger, gave a detailed demonstration on the falseness of the tiger in the photos: its eyeballs remain white, which, if it was real, should glisten like a bulb under a flashlight, and there was no reflected liquid on its eyes or lip either.

The Huaxia Evidence Identification Centre, incorporating a team of doctors of science from the Sun Yet-San University, top Chinese detective Li Changyu, and fingerprint expert Liu Chiping analysed the photos with their respective expertise and reached a consensus that the tiger in the photos is the same as the one in the traditional lunar new year painting.

A reporter from the Beijing Times later dialed Zhou Zhenglong, who claimed he spotted the tiger and took the photos in Shaanxi's Zhenping County. Zhou insisted the tiger was real, "I spent more than one month taking the photos. I'm not telling a lie. They cannot speak at random without any fact-finding visits onsite."

Zhou Zhenglong, 52, a farmer who was once a hunter, claimed he snapped the feline with a digital and film camera on October 3 near a cliff in Zhenping County, northwest China's Shaanxi province, where has been believed to be a key habitat for the no-longer-seen wild South China tigers. He submitted the 40 digital photos and 31 film photographs to the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Department, who released the news and photos to the public on October 5.

As sources put it, the department acknowledged that the photos featured a South China tiger but didn't establish their authenticity before being released to the media.

The photos soon sparked suspicions from hundreds of thousands of netizens online. Some doubted whether the tiger was a wild one because its eyes looked mild and dull. While others said that the tiger's skin and hair seem too shiny, without any three-dimensional effect, and speculated that the digital pictures might have been copied from another source.

The debate became heated. Curious laymen and professional experts contributed more and more evidences which seemed to prove that the photos were indeed fabricated. Finally a netizen posted online what he claimed was "convincing proof" - a traditional Chinese lunar new year picture of a tiger which he bought one year ago.

(CRI December 4, 2007)

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