Marcio Cabral submitted a once-in-a-lifetime shot of an anteater, captured in the Brazilian plains, eating termites deep in the concrete mud mound. For his work, Cabral won the 2017 British Natural History Museum photography award for “Animals in their Environment."
The image, however, has proved highly controversial.
After unnamed third parties contacted the museum, officials took a closer look at the photo, named "The Night Raider," analyzing it for over three weeks.
The museum put together a team of experts, including two mammal experts, a taxidermy expert and an anteater researcher. The experts all looked at the photo individually and came up with the same conclusion: it was a phony photo.
"After a thorough investigation taking just over three weeks, the Museum has concluded that the available evidence points to this allegation being true," the museum said in a press release. "As a result, the Museum believes that the image breaches the competition rules. The rules clearly state that ‘entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to misrepresent the reality of nature.'"
Cabral's photo was taken at Emas National Park, the same place where the high-resolution photo of the taxidermy anteater is kept on open display.
When the experts compared Cabral's photo to the taxidermy anteater depicted in other photos, they found "elements in overall posture, morphology, the position of raised tufts of fur and in the patterning on the neck and the top of the head that are too similar for the images to depict two different animals."
The museum also questioned Cabral about the photo and found some of his answers puzzling. Cabral said he had only taken one photo when it is very common for wildlife photographers to take dozens of images of a subject to get the right shot. Cabral, who the museum said cooperated fully, supplied RAW image files taken before and after the award-winning photo that did not contain the anteater.
Cabral denied any wrongdoing and provided a witness who claimed to have seen the anteater.
As a result of the investigation, not only will the image be removed from the exhibition and tour, but Cabral was disqualified and he is never allowed to enter the competition again.
Cabral's disqualification marked just the second time that an entrant's photo violated the museum's rules.
In 2000, José Luis Rodriguez claimed to have spent months tracking a pack of Iberian wolves to capture an image of them hunting livestock and ultimately winning the award. Eventually, however, judges found that Rodriguez had hired the wolf from a wildlife park and he was later disqualified, according to The Washington Post.
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