Are photos of South China tiger real?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Controversy has erupted over photos purporting to show a South China tiger taken by a Shaanxi farmer after doubts were raised about their authenticity.

With the uproar showing no sign of abating, former hunter Zhou Zhenglong , who claims he snapped more than 70 digital and film pictures of the young tiger on October 3, took the photos to the State Forestry Administration yesterday to get them authenticated.

Mr Zhou, 52, was seen being accompanied by eight people including provincial officials, according to the Legal Evening News.

Pressed by the media, he has insisted his photos are authentic.

His discovery of the South China tiger has been widely reported in the state media. It has also captured attention worldwide. If the tiger's existence is confirmed, it would be the first sighting in 30 years of a sub-species feared extinct.

Despite assertions by officials from the Shaanxi Forestry Department and the province's South China tiger research team that the pictures are authentic, doubts continue to be cast on internet chat sites and by mainland academics. Some people suspect the pictures have been digitally manipulated.

'It's clear from the photos that there is a disproportion between the tiger and the leaf just above its head. How can the width of a leaf be similar to that of a tiger's head?' asked Fu Dezhi , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.