Wild South China tiger photographed in Shaanxi

After it had seemed the South China tiger was indeed extinct - I'd figured maybe survived in wild after doing a story on them, but that was a few years ago - comes news of one that's been photographed in Shaanxi province.

Info on Save China's Tigers website includes:

On October 11th 2007, a tiger photograph taken by Zhenglong Zhou, a villager from Zhenping County in Ankang City, Shaanxi Province of China, was confirmed to be a South China Tiger, after careful examination by experts from Shaanxi Province Forestry Bureau. This is the first record since 1964 of South China Tigers in the wild in Shaanxi Province's Qinba Mountains. ... Zhou searched for other clues with extra care. At around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when he was about to give up, he suddenly saw a cave in the rocks, as well as something yellowish like a tiger. As he looked more carefully, IT WAS A TIGER!

As Zhou quietly got closer, he took photos with both cameras from behind the big rock. As he got closer and closer, to within about 20 metres, he began shaking with fear and he could hardly hold his cameras. He tried his best to calm himself and hold the cameras steady. As he was getting closer and taking more photos, the camera suddenly flashed with a loud "PAH” sound. He saw the tiger move, so he rolled back behind the rock to hide himself with his heart beating fast. Hearing a loud and long furious roar coming from the tiger, he stood still behind the rock holding his breath. ... Zhenping County has been an important habitat for South China Tigers throughout history, but South China Tigers have not been seen in nearly 30 years. Most villagers from Zhenping County believe tigers still exist, but hiding somewhere deep in the forest. The Plantation Project and Forest Reserve Project in recent years have greatly improved the habitat for tigers. In Zhenping County, tigers were viewed and hvae been heard several times. Shaanxi Province Forestry bureau has recently published its report, Results of Survey of South China Tigers in Zhenping County Shaanxi. It shows 17 reports from witnesses of South China Tigers; 10 reports of animals or humans who had been bitten by tigers, 6 reports of hearing tigers’ roar. On the July 6th this year, 7 wildlife experts examined this report carefully, all agreed: South China Tigers exist in Zhenping County Shaanxi Province. According to the Mayor of Zhenping County “Frequent report from witnesses of South China Tigers shed light on saving this creature from extinction.”

The">http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/325]The Wild South China Tiger: The Photographers Account Not sure if odd that the story mentions tiger in a "cave" in the rocks; photo shows a well lit tiger, looking at photographer, in vegetation.

The story I did is on this site, at: Last">http://www.drmartinwilliams.com/conservation/s-china-tiger.html]Last call for the South China tiger

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Interesting that, after I'd wondered re the photo I'd seen, there have been reports re questions being raised on internet blogs etc re the authenticity of the South China tiger photos.

The farmer who took them is headed for Beijing, to get State Forestry people to verify the photos (or not!)

Just seen that a team will investigate in the area where the photos were reportedly taken. News item includes:
[quote]many suspicious points surfaced in the photo, including the angle of the sunlight and the size of some leaves.

The Shaanxi Forestry Department said it wants to set up a national nature reserve in the province. The tiger news, whether true or not, has already brought unprecedented attention to the county of 57,000 people in northern Shaanxi.

Zhou, a former hunter, also arouse more suspicion when he refused to release his photos just one day before the provincial forestry authority planned to hold a news conference about the tiger's reappearance on October 12.

Zhou said he wouldn't allow his pictures to be published unless the provincial authority offered him a reward of one million yuan (US$133,333). He eventually agreed to lower his request to 20,000 yuan for two pictures.[/quote]
[url=http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2007/200710/20071026/article_335... will investigate possible tiger sighting[/url]

Well, there's much debate re authenticity of the photos; and begins to look like they're fakes.

The Times has article, inc:
[quote]Some internet critics cited irregular effects of lighting and focus, saying that the colour of the tiger’s fur looked unreal and too shiny to be authentic.

Fu Dezhi, a botanist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, voiced doubts about the vegetation in the photograph, saying that it would be unusual to find a leaf of a size similar to the one that obscured much of the tiger’s head. “I have never discussed whether this is a real tiger because that issue is not my specialty,” he wrote in a blog. “But based on my botanical expertise . . . this is just a ‘paper tiger’.” [/quote]
[url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2770820.ece?Subm... picture of endangered cat in 30 years may be a paper tiger[/url]

So, how would you take a fake shot, that actually shows a paper tiger? See this page - informative and entertaining even if you can't read Chinese:
http://digi.163.com/07/1031/11/3S4M0MV8001618EE.html

The farmer and Shaanxi officials involved in the tiger photo may be ruing the day they went public with the images.

Now, seems the tiger in the shot's a dead ringer for a tiger that appeared on a poster. From Reuters:
[quote]Chinese Internet users have pointed to a Chinese New Year poster as proof that a controversial photograph of a tiger purportedly snapped in the wild is fake, local media reported on Monday.
...
The emergence online of a commemorative Chinese New Year's poster of a tiger reclining on a rock produced in 2002 has been cited as proof that Zhou faked the image.

The poster's manufacturer was quoted by local media reports as saying that the tiger's "stripes, bearing and motion are exactly the same as the New Year's poster."

Luo Guanglin, general manager of Yiwushi Vista Print Packing Co Ltd, told Reuters by telephone that the tiger on the poster his company produced was "very similar" to Luo's.

"I can't say whether Zhou's tiger is the same. That's for experts to decide... But it is very similar, over 90 percent similar," Luo said.

While the tigers are placed in different settings -- Zhou's in a forest, and Vista's on a rock in a gushing stream -- the stripes and pose of the tiger look similar to the naked eye.[/quote]
[url=http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSPEK17677720071119]Poster heats up China "paper" tiger debate[/url]

Xinhua also carried the story, in report headed:
[url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-11/19/content_7104884.htm]Farmer returns to wilderness to prove tiger photo genuine[/url]
- might reckon farmer Zhou will be best advised to stay in the wilderness, at least till he photographs a real tiger or the furor dies down! :lol:

No real surprise in this story from Xinhua:
[quote]Chinese photographers said the South China tiger on digital pictures, released by forestry authorities and widely discussed on the Internet, is a fake.

A preparatory digital picture appraisal center under the China Photographers Society, released the results on Sunday after a team of photographic experts assessed the 40 digital pictures provided by NetEase, a Chinese Internet company.

The center said technological analysis from last Tuesday through Sunday showed the South China tiger on the 40 pictures was not real and could not serve as evidence for the existence of the wild animal.

The pictures must have been taken by people with photographic experience or under guidance and could not be done independently by a person without any photographic experience, claimed experts.[/quote]
[url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-12/03/content_7193731.htm]Photogr... South China tiger pictures are fake[/url]
Even so, officials not all ready to omit the error:
[quote]Chinese government officials have refused to concede photographs of a rare South China tiger in the wild are fake, a day after the China Photographers Society confirmed the images were not real.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, State Forestry Administration spokesman Cao Qingyao reserved judgment on the authenticity of the controversial pictures which have caused a storm on the Internet, saying more concrete evidence was needed.[/quote]
[url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-12/04/content_7199255.htm]Government officials refuse to accept South China tiger photos are fake [/url]