'Public opinion' delays ruling on tiger photos

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2008, 12:00am

A Shaanxi forestry official has admitted that 'immense public pressure' on the forensic agency responsible for authenticating photographs allegedly of a wild South China tiger has delayed the release of results.

That senior official was quoted by the Chengdu Evening News saying that the process of authentication normally only 'took two to three days or even one afternoon'.

The photographs were taken more than two months ago by Zhou Zhenglong , a hunter in mountainous Zhenping county in Shaanxi, and purportedly show one of the world's most endangered species. Yet serious doubts have been raised about their authenticity.

'Now the public opinion is overwhelming that Mr Zhou is making things up,' the official said. 'So even if the Ministry of Public Security or a related State Council department authenticates the photographs, it still has to take into account of the voice of the public.

'Yet when considering public opinion, it also has to respect facts and science. If the result shows that the photos are real and that Zhou Zhenglong has not made things up, then the public will certainly doubt the impartiality and objectivity of the forensic agency.'

The Shaanxi Forestry Department has failed to reveal which forensic agency is entrusted with the task and what the result is. A few weeks had passed since the State Forestry Administration said that it was 'beyond its responsibility' to look into the photographs, and ordered Shaanxi authorities to do so instead.

The newspaper quoted sources saying results of the assessment were in and the photographs' background - the forests of Zhenping county - was confirmed as authentic. Yet the sources failed to reveal whether the tiger was a living one or merely a 'paper tiger'.