The Shaanxi Forestry Department, which announced last October
that a rare wild South China tiger had been spotted, has said sorry
for publicizing the photos, but has said nothing about their
An embarrassed department apologized to the public in a letter
for "curtly publicizing the discovery of the wild South China
tiger" on Monday evening.
"Our department held a press conference on October 12 and
announced that the wild South China tiger was sighted in Zhenping
county. We publicized two photos taken by local farmer Zhou
Zhenglong, which aroused public doubts of the photos' authenticity
and caused a national controversy", says the "Shaanxi Provincial
Forestry Department's letter of Apology to the public".
The letter was sent to Xinhua and other major media in the
province by the general affairs office of the provincial government
on Monday evening. It didn't mention the authenticity of the
"We didn't report to the superiors according to stipulated
procedures and didn't have a spot investigation before we held the
press conference. We curtly released the discovery of the South
China tiger without substantial proof, which reflects our
blundering manner and lax discipline", the letter says.
The general affairs office of the provincial government
criticized the department for violating the news release system of
the government on Sunday. Normally, the department should report to
the provincial publicity department before it holds a press
The Forestry Department said in the press conference that the
tiger was snapped by Zhou on October 3 near a cliff, and experts
have confirmed that it was a young wild South China tiger. The
department also gave Zhou 20,000 yuan (US$2,778) as a prize.
But Internet users and some scientists accused Zhou of making
the tiger images with digital software, and local authorities of
approving the photographs to bolster tourism.
In December, the State Forestry Administration demanded the
provincial forestry department have the photos authenticated by a
panel of experts, but no results have been published.
The South China tiger, also called the Amoy or Xiamen tiger, is
thought to be the ancestor of all tigers, according to the World
It 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.
Today, the tiger is widely believed to be extinct in the
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)