Every year, the London Natural History Museum holds a photo contest for Wildlife Photographers. Judges of the contest seek to find the images that show a “truthful interpretation of the natural world”.
With this in mind, one can only imagine the uproar that was stirred when an animal in one of the winning photos of the contest was, in fact, fake.
The fraudulent image in question is titled “The Night Raider”. Taken in Emas National Park, it features an anteater sitting at the bottom of a termite hill. The hill itself is lit up by click beetles, whose fluorescent butts match the starry night.
‘A Serendipitous Moment’
The photographer, Marcio Cabral, described the photo as a ‘serendipitous moment’. Emas National Park is known for it’s anteaters—there’s even a taxidermied aardvark that sits at the entrance to the park. So when an anteater approached the termite hill that Cabral happened to be standing next to, he was quick to capture the shot.
Apparently, Cabral was only able to get in one shot before the flash caused the animal to scurry away into the dark. He was lucky he captured the moment so perfectly in the few seconds that he had with the animal!
Critics, however (including yours truly), were quick to call BS on the story. Some even pointed out that the aardvark in the photo looks suspiciously like the one that guards the entrance to the park.
Upon hearing these criticisms, the museum took action. They called in five scientists, who analyzed side-by-side photos of the winning aardvark and the one who stands in front of the park.
Science Weighs In
Even after reviewing the photos individually, each scientist came to the same conclusion—that the anteater in the photograph was not a living creature. They could tell through its posture, its markings, and even the way that its fur moved that it was, indeed, the taxidermied creature that typically stood just outside the park.
Cabral was compliant during the investigation of his photograph, but because he was apparently only able to capture that one shot, he had no “before” or “after” photos that featured the elusive animal.
After reviewing these statements, the judges of the contest came to the conclusion that they could no longer with good conscience keep “The Night Raider” on their awards list. What’s more, they banned the photo from the contest altogether.
The photographer still maintains that the photo was not posed. After all, the visitor’s center is locked away and he wouldn’t have been able to reach the taxidermied creature even if he wanted to (Though how funny would it be if a photo titled “Night Raider”was of a model that had been raided from the Visitors center in the night?).
Nonetheless, the judges have removed “The Night Raider” from their site, and the contest is back to featuring photos that are most definitely, completely alive.