The excitement about the discovery of a wild South China tiger
in northeast China's Shaanxi Province has now turned into
controversy following an accusation by a botanist from the Chinese
Academy of Sciences that the photograph is a fake. The photograph
was taken by a farmer.
Some people questioned the authenticity of the photograph when
it was first published online and in the newspapers on October 12.
The botanist firmly believes that the broad tree leaf almost as big
as the head of the tiger appearing just above the animal's head is
definitely not indigenous.
Yet, the local forestry bureau, which got experts to examine the
photograph, believes it is authentic. The bureau claims that as
many as eight South China tigers are believed to exist in the
Qinling Mountain area of the province.
Wild South China tigers are believed to be extinct. None has
ever been spotted in the wild for many years. There are only about
50 at present housed in zoos.
It was repeatedly reported that tiger hairs and other traces of
the animal were discovered in the Qinling Mountain forests in the
recent past, but never has anyone claimed to have actually seen
one. No wonder it caused such a stir when the farmer claimed to
have spotted one and took a photograph of it.
Every Chinese would be more than happy to believe that this
flesh-eating feline does exist in the wilderness of Qinling
But if the botanist is right, then the farmer has plotted the
entire incident for economic gains. He has played on the feelings
of all his countrymen who are concerned with the fate of this
species of tiger.
The local government needs to be very careful in dealing with
this issue. Apart from further checking the authenticity of the
photograph, other evidence such as tiger hairs or droppings that
can be tested to testify to its existence needs to be collected. If
this evidence is available, it should be made public as soon as
Whether the published photograph is genuine or not is one thing,
the protection of the ecological environment is also important.
It is right for the local government to have banned hunting in
the mountainous area and put the entire forest under tight
protection as a nature reserve following news about the tiger. Even
if no wild South China tigers exist there, such efforts need to be
continued to protect other wild animals.
(China Daily October 23, 2007)