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South China Tiger picture probe goes public
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The results of the inquiry into the South China tiger photos are expected to be released next Monday, according to the State Forestry Administration.

"The issue is under investigation," the Shaanxi provincial forestry bureau told a law expert who petitioned for the publication of information on the scandal.

Hao Jinsong, a scholar running a none-profit legal advisory body, sent a petition on May 12 asking the state administration to publish the result of the official assessment, the amount of public funds spent on the field survey for the extremely rare cat and the report from the Shaanxi bureau on the discovery of the extinct animal.

In October the Shaanxi provincial forestry bureau released photos taken by a farmer in Zhenping County named Zhou Zhenglong, saying that the photos were proof that the rare tiger was not extinct as previously thought.

Suspicions about the authenticity of the photographs were raised on the Internet almost immediately.

It was pointed out the tiger, one of the most fierce animals on earth, did not move at all during the time frame of the pictures.

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

Several unofficial assessments have indicated that the photographs were fake.

Critics accused the bureau of deliberately ignoring the truth for local economic benefit.

The administration subsequently sent a team to the county to trace the South China tiger.

Arriving in November, the team searched an area of 200,000 hectares, interviewed more than 20 villagers who claimed to have sees the tiger and set up 26 infrared cameras, but failed to find any "concrete evidence" of the tiger in Zhengping, where the controversial photographs were taken.

(Shanghai Daily June 17, 2008)

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