The Natural History Museum in London, owner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, has disqualified an image that it selected as the winner of the “Animals in Their Environment” category last year after it discovered that the photo was of a “taxidermy specimen.”
The photo (shown above) by photographer Marcio Cabral shows an anteater at a termite mound. In the caption, he states that he camped out for three seasons in Brazil’s Cerrado region at Emas National Park while waiting for the ideal light conditions. After days of rain, he was able to capture the event with the bonus of a giant anteater in the shot.
After being given the award, the museum received evidence from a third party that the animal in the image was a taxidermy anteater that is on display at the entrance to the Emas National Park. A team of scientists, including two mammal experts and a taxidermy specialist at the museum, examined high-resolution photos of a taxidermy anteater and compared it to the awarded photo.
All reached the same conclusion: The stuffed anteater at the park and the one in the awarded photo were too similar.
Cabral, who cooperated in the investigation, supplied images to the museum that he took “before” and “after” the shot was taken. None included the anteater
“Unfortunately, I do not have another image of the animal because it is a long exposure of 30 seconds and ISO 5000,” Cabral told BBC News . “After the flashes were fired, the animal left, so it was not possible to make another photo with the animal coming out of the place that is totally dark.”
The museum states that the “rules clearly state that photographs achieved through unethical practices will be disqualified. The competition rules are available to all entrants including versions translated into several languages, including Brazilian Portuguese. ”
“I find it disheartening and surprising that a photographer would go to such lengths to deceive the competition and its worldwide following,” a judge for the competition told the BBC. “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.”
The image will be removed from the exhibition and tour.
Cabral still strongly denies the allegations and could not be reached for comment.