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After a careful and thorough investigation into the image The night raider by Marcio Cabral, the Museum has disqualified it from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
It was the winner of the 2017 Animals in their Environment category.
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. As a result, the Museum believes that the image breaches the competition rules, which state that 'entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to misrepresent the reality of nature.'
The Natural History Museum is a world-leading scientific research institution. The team of scientists involved in the investigation comprised of two mammals experts and a taxidermy specialist at the Museum, plus two external experts: a South American mammals expert and an expert anteater researcher.
The competition was contacted in March by anonymous sources who questioned the authenticity of this image. An investigation was conducted immediately.
Evidence examined included high resolution photographs of a taxidermy anteater that is kept on open display at a visitor centre at the Portão do Bandeira gate, one of the entrances of the Emas National Park - the large park where The night raider was taken.
The anteater in the awarded image was compared to the taxidermy anteater in the photographs received by the Museum.
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.
The competition rules, which are available to all entrants in a variety of languages, state that photographs achieved through unethical practices will be disqualified.
Rule 4 of the 2017 competition rules also states:
'Entrants are required to report on the natural world in a way that is both creative and honest:
(i) entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to disguise and/or misrepresent
the reality of nature;
(ii) caption information supplied must be complete, true and accurate.'
Roz Kidman Cox, a member of the 2017 judging panel and current chair of the jury, says, '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.'
Competition judges expect photographers to present the truth when entering images. Their account is taken as honest in support of the represented photographers' high degree of skill.
The judging panel is normally made up of experts in wildlife photography (including previous Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners), photojournalism, photo editing and animal behaviour.
If an awarded image is later placed under doubt, the competition conducts a full review, including extensive consultation with photographers, jury members and technical advisers, as well as scientists and researchers at the Museum. In the case of The night raider, external experts who specialise in South American mammals and anteaters were also consulted.
The night raider by Marcio Cabral is no longer considered to be a category winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 competition, and the image has been removed from the exhibition and tour.
Marcio Cabral is not considered to be a Wildlife Photographer of the Year category winner or finalist in the 2017 competition, and will not be eligible to enter the competition again.
A new category winner cannot be awarded because judging throughout the competition is blind - photographer's names are not revealed. As the photographers are now known, it would be impossible for judges to make an objective choice.
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