Shaanxi hunter Zhou Zhenglong has appealed against his fraud conviction, breathing new life into the 'Tigergate' saga that has stirred debate among mainland netizens for a year. Zhou's newly appointed advocate, Beijing-based lawyer Gu Yushu , said he and Zhou's wife had been trying to meet Zhou at the Xunyang Detention Centre in Shaanxi since they received the written verdict on Monday, but to no avail. However, the centre, which did agree to pass along a message, confirmed yesterday that Zhou submitted a written request for an appeal on Tuesday night, the last possible day. Zhou caught the nation's attention last October with photos of the thought-to-be-extinct South China tiger taken in his hometown in Zhenping county. He was awarded 20,000 yuan (HK$22,818) by the provincial government, which then immediately held a press conference calling for funds for a tiger reserve. Within days, accusations that the photos were fake circulated internet chat rooms. The discovery in November of a calendar poster depicting the same tiger might have settled the case, but Zhou and a stream of officials strongly denied any wrongdoing. Provincial authorities finally admitted in June that the photos were a hoax, and 13 officials were sacked or disciplined for procedural oversights. However, Zhou was the only one charged with a criminal offence, prompting claims that he was a scapegoat. At his September 27 trial, the hunter admitted fabricating the photos using borrowed cameras, and using a wooden tiger-claw model to make fake footprints. He was sentenced to 21/2 years in jail and fined 2,000 yuan for fraud and illegal possession of ammunition. Aware of public expectations that he get to the bottom of the affair, Mr Gu said any questions about how the photos were taken required further scrutiny of the prosecutors' evidence. Meanwhile, Zhou claimed he had no intention of defrauding the government out of the reward when he took the photos, since he was not aware it existed at the time, Mr Gu said. 'It is still too early to say what defence we will be pursuing,' he said. 'But I will try my best to cross-examine the prosecution's testimony and seek an independent assessment of the evidence.'