In Depth

Anteater in award-winning wildlife photo is actually stuffed, say judges

Photographer Marcio Cabral still insists Natural History Museum award picture is result of years of patient work

A winning entry in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has been disqualified for featuring a stuffed animal.

An image showing what appeared to be a live anteater eating from an ant hill in Brazil's Emas National Park had won an award at the contest run by London's Natural History Museum.

The striking image, called The Night Raider, was taken by Marcio Cabral and won the Animals in their Environment category.

But the museum said in a statement that: “Evidence was presented to the museum by third parties that it is highly likely the animal in the awarded photograph is a taxidermy specimen.”

“After a thorough investigation, the museum concluded that the available evidence points to this allegation being true,” it said.

Experts had “concluded there are elements of the animal's posture, morphology, raised tufts of fur and patterns on the neck and head that are too similar for the images to show two different animals”, it said.

Cabral denies that the animal was stuffed.

Other photographers and tourists were in the park at the same time, he told the BBC, and therefore “it would be very unlikely anyone wouldn't see a stuffed animal being transported and placed carefully in this position”.

According to his original caption, the photographer spent days frustrated by rain in Emas National Park before a “giant anteater ambled out of the darkness” and stayed “just long enough” for him to take a single photo.

“This is not the first time the WPY judges have had to disqualify a winning entry,” says the BBC. In 2009, they threw out the grand prize photo that supposedly depicted a wild Spanish wolf jumping over a gate. A similar investigation “concluded that the pictured animal was not wild at all, but a tame wolf from a zoo”.

Roz Kidman Cox, a member of the 2017 judging panel, issued a warning to others who submit dubious images in an attempt to win awards. “I find it disheartening and surprising that a photographer would go to such lengths to deceive the competition and its worldwide following,” she said.

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