Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer and former hunter in Zhenping County, Shaaanxi Province, took 71 photos of a South China tiger on October 3rd last year. Forestry officials in Zhenping county, published the photos on October 12th, saying that they proved the existence of the tiger – not seen in the wild since 1964. They paid Mr Zhou a reward of 20,000 yuan ($2,915), banned hunting in the region and launched a massive search for the big cat – one of the ten most endangered animals on the planet.
In the early 1950s, China had only about 4,000 South China tigers there, but by 1996, its population numbered only 30 to 80, according to the World Conservation Union’s Red List of threatened species.
Zhenping County, a small village with 57,000 population, suddenly became the hottest tourism destination for nature-lovers.
Soon people started questioning the authenticity of the photos.29th June Shaanxi Provincial government officials declared the photos to be fabricated & detained Zhou.In addition 13 local officials have been sacked in connection with the scandal.
Since January this year the tiger scandal sparked a buzz in search and in online debate about conservation and local government corruption.
Hu Jintao, President of China and Communist Party chief, was even questioned about it when he took part in an online chat with the public for the first time ten days ago. By 29th June afternoon there were more than 400,000 comments about the arrests on the sina.com site alone. People commented :
“The credibility of our Government is really worrying!”
“When a local government behaves like this, people will definitely ask it to collapse as soon as possible, and capable people should take over.”