Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer in Shaanxi Province, China, came forward with a picture of a rare South China tiger, a creature not seen in the wild since 1964 and that many feared to be extinct. Zhou said he had taken the photo (top) on October 3, 2007 and that he had "risked his life" to do so. Forestry officials published the photo, paid him a reward of 20,000 yuan, and began an intensive search for the animal.
However, the photo quickly generated suspicion, especially online. Police were able to identify the trees in Zhou's photo, and by extrapolating from this information concluded that Zhou's tiger, if real, measured less than a foot in length. The forestry officials were criticized for promoting the dubious photo, apparently in the hope that proof of the tiger's existence would attract tourism to the region.
Eventually the police determined that Zhou had created the photo using a picture of the South China tiger he had found in an old calendar (bottom). He simply cut the picture out of the calendar, attached it to a wooden backing, placed it between the trees, and snapped its photo. He had hoped to receive a sizable reward (much larger than the one he got) for proving the existence of the tiger.
In June 2008 thirteen officials were fired for their involvement in the fraud. Zhou was arrested on suspicion of fraud.
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