New Delhi, June 30 : China has punished 13 government officials and arrested a man for presenting false evidence in trying to prove that the highly endangered South China tiger still existed in the wild.
The Shaanxi provincial Government said on Sunday that farmer Zhou Zhenglong had fudged some photographs for the purpose. The government had earlier claimed the photos were real. The 54-year-old farmer from Zhenping County, who claimed to have photographed the tiger with a digital camera on October 3, 2007, was arrested for alleged fraud on Saturday, said Bai Shaokang, spokesman for the Shaanxi provincial public security bureau.
The provincial forestry department has revoked his 2,915 dollars reward too.
Experts believe the South China tiger is the progenitor of all the living tiger species, the China Daily reported.
Its number in the wild had fallen between 30 and 80 by 1996, when the World Conservation Union put it on its Red List of threatened species. Now, it is widely believed to have become extinct in the wild.
Bai said police have seized the old tiger photograph, which Zhou borrowed from a farmer in another village in September to fudge his photos. A tiger paw made of wood, which he used to create pug marks on snow, has been seized too.
Zhou had insisted that he "risked his life to take the photos of a real tiger."
Police have found the exact spot where Zhou took the photos. It is in Madaozi forest, 15 km from Wencai village in Zhenping, and is 2,000 m above the sea level, Bai said. "It is a small area with few tall trees not a suitable habitat for a tiger."
Police discovered that the "trees" near the South China tiger in Zhou's photograph were just 0.8 cm in diameter. And calculations showed the "tiger" would have been only 27 cm long.