NHM disqualifies Wildlife Photographer of the Year image

Anonymous tip-off reveals anteater in photo is stuffed
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
The Natural History Museum (NHM) has disqualified a winning image from its 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition after expert analysis confirmed that an anteater in the photo is “highly likely” to be a taxidermy specimen.

Taken by photographer Marcio Cabral at Emas National Park in Brazil, the Night Raider was the winner of the competition’s Animals in their Environment category. It shows an anteater searching for food in a termite mound.

In March, the museum received an anonymous tip-off that the animal shown in the photo was a stuffed anteater normally displayed beside a visitor centre at the park.

According to a statement from the NHM, a weeks-long investigation into the allegations led the museum to conclude that the anteater was the same taxidermy specimen referred to by the anonymous source.

As part of its “careful and thorough” investigation, the museum consulted two of its mammal experts, an in-house taxidermy specialist, and two external specialists, as well as putting a series of questions to the photographer.

The statement said: “The five scientists, working independently of each other, all 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. The experts would have expected some variation between two individuals of the same species.

“The museum also considered the responses to questions put to the photographer Marcio Cabral, who cooperated fully in the investigation, and who supplied RAW image files which were taken before and after the winning shot was taken, none of which included the anteater.

“Mr Cabral did provide an explanation as to why he had no other images of the anteater. He also provided a witness who claims he saw the live anteater. Mr Cabral strongly denies that the anteater in the image is a taxidermy specimen.”

Roz Kidman Cox, a member of the 2017 judging panel and the current chairwoman of the jury, said: “I find it disheartening and surprising that a photographer would go to such lengths to deceive the competition and its worldwide following.

“The competition places great store on honesty and integrity, and such a breach of the rules is disrespectful to the wildlife photography community, which is at the heart of the competition. This disqualification should remind entrants that any transgression of the rules and spirit of the competition will eventually be found out.”

The Night Raider is not the only winning image to be disqualified from the competition. The winner of the 2010 overall title, Jose Luis Rodriguez, was stripped of his £10,000 prize after judges discovered that his photo had been staged using a tame Iberian wolf.

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