September 27, 2008

Chinese Farmer Jailed for Faking Tiger Photos

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

XI'AN, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) - Zhou Zhenglong, the farmer who shocked the country with his fake photo of the endangered South China tiger, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Saturday in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The Xunyang County People's Court also fined him 2,000 yuan (about 292 US dollars) after convicting him of fraud.

The trial lasted more than five hours.

The 54-year-old man from Zhenping County claimed to have photographed the tiger with a digital camera on Oct. 3, 2007. He was rewarded by the Provincial Forestry Department with 20,000 yuan (2,921 US dollars).

The South China tiger has not been seen in the wild for decades.

Doubts arose immediately on the Internet, after netizens found an old Lunar New Year commemorative poster showing a tiger that resembled the photo.

Police later arrested Zhou after seizing an old tiger poster, which Zhou allegedly used to produce his photos. They also found a wooden model of tiger claw.

According to testimony of Zhou's son, Zhou Song, his father once made him look for tiger posters and asked whether they could be used to take pictures. The son said no. After the tiger photos came out, Zhou Song knew his father had fabricated them.

During court, Zhou Zhenglong claimed no one else participated in the scheme.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 0810 27 Sep 08.