London, January 21 (ANI): Reports indicate that the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award has been disqualified after judges ruled that the featured wolf in the photograph was probably a "model".
The 2009 winning image, dubbed the storybook wolf, was taken by photographer Jose Luis Rodriguez.
His photograph was chosen out of more than 43,000 competition entries in October 2009.
According to a report by BBC News, Louise Emerson from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition office explained that the judging panel had been "reconvened" and had concluded that it was likely that the wolf featured in the image was an animal model that could be "hired for photographic purposes".
"This was in breach of the competition rules which are made available to all entrants," she said.
"The judging panel looked at a range of evidence and took specialist advice from panel judges who have extensive experience of photographing wildlife including wolves," said Emerson.
"They also considered the responses to specific questions put to the photographer," she added.
Wildlife photographer Mark Carwardine, who was one of the competition judges, told BBC News that this was the first time in the competition's 46-year history that there would not be a winner.
Carwardine explained that he and his fellow judges had gathered evidence and sought the opinions of wolf experts in order to reach their decision.
The experts compared the winning picture to pictures of Ossian, a tame wolf that lives at a zoological park near Madrid called Canada Real.
"You can see several very distinctive markings and the experts all agreed that, yes, it's the same wolf," said Carwardine.
"We disqualified and banned him for life from entering the competition again, so I think that sends a strong message," he added.
"This is very sad and I think it might make us more suspicious of entries that are too good to be true," said Carwardine.
But he added that he hoped it would encourage honesty in the competition in the future.
The disqualified photograph will be removed from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which is being held at the Natural History Museum in London.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez strongly denied that the wolf was a trained animal, according to a statement from the organisers. (ANI)