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China: Tiger! Tiger?

News Background

On 12, Oct, a breaking news caught people's sights: A villager Zhou Zhenglong (周正龙) in Shaanxi province managed to shoot over 30 pictures of a wild South China tiger, a kind of endangered animal that can be called the national treasure. South China tigers haven’t been seen in wild since 1980s, and this picture strongly proved their existence. Zhou Zhenglong, who proclaimed that he risked his life to shoot the pictures, was soon called a hero.
hero.jpg

However, the great finding soon fell under numerous questions. This boiling controversy started from netizens’ doubts that pictures, or even the tiger itself, were faked, reaching its climax when both sides of this debate (fake or not)bet their heads. It evolved from a scientific issue to a “bloody farce of gambling of heads”, so called.

shaanxi-tiger
The pictures were shot on 3, Oct. After experts’ identification, 10 days later Shaanxi Provincial Ministry of Forestry publicized them and soon received favorable attentions. Nevertheless 3 days later on Tianya(天涯)Community a netizen Party Control Guns(党指挥枪) stated that they were faked. He argued that in different pictures shot at different time from different angles the stripes and profile of the tiger remained the same.

Another netizen First Impression(第一印象) overlapped 3 photos and found the tiger’s postures, shades on its fur and stripes overlapped as well, which means that the tiger ossified when being shot. Netizens gave a more authentic explanation: it is a tiger drawn on a paperboard, or grafted into the picture by Photoshop.

Having heard the doubts, Zhou Zhenglong was upset and furious, claming that he could guarantee the pictures’ authenticity with his head.

Then, on 19th, Oct, a botanist Fu Dezhi(傅德志) from China Academy of Sciences(中国科学院)retorted Zhou on a net forum. He argued that the leaf around was notably disproportional with the tiger, calculating that the leaf had to be as large as a basin to reach the effect on the photo. Furthermore, he suggested not only the tiger was faked, but the scene as well . Finally, he pledged with his head.

Zhou immediately rebuked that he would put himself as well as his son into jail if he had fooled the public

The incident soon gained a national-wide concern. People called it Scientist PK Farmer. Most netizens doubted Zhou; some made further analysis on the pictures from the points of photography, zoology and graphic processing. But Zhou Zhenglong was not alone. The provincial Ministry of Forestry sided firmly with Zhou. Wang Yunshan(王云山), an officer there asserted the pictures were true though they had a little bit distortion because the pictures had been magnified. He also revealed the ministry had applied to the national ministry for building a new reserve and was going to attract tourists by the name of tigers.

The local government has circled an area that forbids any out-comers in, claiming it for tiger protection. But on websites, people interpreted this as covering up the fact. On 20th, Oct, a reporter who tried to explore the scene where Zhou encountered the tiger was detained. The village officer extorted for 10000 yuan, though he finally left without paying the fine.

24th, Oct, Zhou and officers from provincial government left for Beijing to report to the national ministry. Soon the national ministry declared they would found a team for special investigation. The real story behind this mystery was yet unknown.

Roundup of voices form blogsphere

1. When a gory gambling replaces science.

Many netizens criticized the both sides’ savage pledges that have gone beyond scientific discussion.

Dan Shibing (单士兵)stated:

对真相进行不懈的探求,必须对科学有起码敬畏。而“以脑袋担保”的科研工作者与“以拉上儿子一起坐牢”的现代公民,却在以暴力与漠视生命的方式对待问题分歧,这是对科学理性的侮辱,是在亵渎文明的尊严。

Exploring the truth requires the awe to science. However, when the scientific researcher “pledged with his head” and a citizen took “putting himself with his son into jail” as a wager, they treated the contention in a violent way, so apathetic to life. It’s an insult to the reason of science, profaning the dignity of civilization.

Another netizen in Tom.com mocked:

两个完全不同的观点,如果真的能杀头,看来必有一个人要拿脑袋出来了。等着看笑话吧。

The two points of view are distinct. They swore with their heads so that one of two will have to hand in his head. Let’s wait for a joke.

Cai Fanghua(蔡方华) on Beijing Youth argued for a more rational solution:

他们还有更多的事情要做,比如说,通过中立的机构如世界自然基金会,联系国内外虎类专家和实验室,对照片及其拍摄地进行鉴定。周正龙的照片是真是假,不能仅凭少数官员的一柄放大镜去甄别……而应遵循严格的科学程序。否则,既不能让华南虎踏实,也不能让公众满意,更无法让国际社会信服。

It (the local government that insists on the pictures’ veracity) has a lot more to do. For example, it can ask some independent agencies such as WWF and domestic or foreign experts to identify the pictures. Whether true or not should not be decided by a few officials. It needs to follow strict scientific process. Otherwise, public won’t be content, let alone the international society.

Blogger Chen Tan (陈潭)suggests more practical measures of animal protecting:

保护华南虎就是保护人类自己,保护人类的文明。不要让毫无意义的争论成为焦点.……用脑袋能担保华南虎的未来吗?显然不能。是时候正视我们脆弱的保护动物理念了,从现在开始,保护动物比任何争论更实在。

To protect South China tigers is to protect human ourselves. Don’t let the meaningless contention be a focus. ……Can we guarantee the tigers’ future with heads? Of course not. It’s time to face out fragile notion of animal protecting; that’s more important than any argument.

2. loss of trust

Deng Haijian(邓海建) moaned for the loss of trust:

一个科学问题,走上了“绯闻主义路线”,不知道是谁的悲哀?……在这个问题上,有很多深层次的问题值得我们反思和警醒:为什么一个个科学发现越来越容易被民众质疑为PS?为什么科研机构和职能部门的科学公信力竟然如此稀薄?辩论之热烈与实证之寥落为何如此对比鲜明?

A science issue came to be a stunt. Whose tragedy is it? We need more introspection. Why are public so inclined to questioning scientific findings? Why do the scientific departments and authority have so little credit among people? Why do we put more effort on empty debate than on searching for factual demonstration?

3.The economic connotation beyond

Chen Qingzhi (陈庆之) in BlogChina analyzed the economics and political factor:

这是一只有着中国特色的华南虎,这是一只政绩和利益加身的华南虎。某一部分人会因为这只老虎的发现,成就政绩一件,升官发财自不在话下。某部门会由于华南虎的发现,会从国家得到一笔数目不菲的专项资金,用于保护当地野生的华南虎,这样许多人便有了虎口夺食的机会。

This is a tiger with Chinese typicality. It involved officials’ chances for promotion and other economic benefit. Some people will get promoted because the finding is a big contribution. Certain government departments will get a large amount of specific fund from the nation to protect the wildlife so that some people have chance to snatch food from tigers. (He alludes someone might take chance to defalcate)

Finally, Liu Maohua(刘茂华)preferred there is no tiger.

我同样希望不要有真的野生华南虎,倘若有,那些猎杀者、贩卖者定会蜂拥而至,再怎么凶猛的华南虎将会再次绝迹。那些打着保护幌子的“文明人”会以保护的名义打着各自的小算盘……他们会大规模建设旅游园地,开发各种各样的旅游项目,把活生生的野生华南虎关进死气沉沉的铁笼。
发现真的野生华南虎之日,也就是真的野生华南虎的灾难日和灭顶之日。

I don’t hope there are tigers. Poachers and illicit sellers will swarm to there. However fierce the tigers are they will extinct again. And those “good men” will pretend to protect tigers but actually seek profit for themselves. They will build a large resort and develop tour projects, incarcerating lively tigers into lifeless cages.

The day that people find wild tigers is the day of tigers’ doom.

17 comments

  • southtiger

    the great majority of people in china know the tiger is faked.
    but in china,usualy when a fake is maked with government related ,then there will be no official voices coming to correct it,though they know it is fake.
    you can see this on’the Great Leap Forward ‘in china’s history.

  • mondain

    “Dan Shibing (单士兵)stated: . . .” should it be “Shan” instead of “Dan” as it appears in surname?

  • Shan, right. Thank you for pointing it out. Alas, my Chinese……

  • southtiger

    upstares,your chinese not like that…actually many chinese dont know ‘shan’.but my english is pretty bad.and last time my comment above should be ” ..usually when a fake is maked ‘by’ government related “.

  • dddr

    只需要拍一张和周虎像素接近的真华南虎照(动物园有),虎要差不多一样大,去掉背景用白色填充,用软件分析一下实际颜色数量,如果颜色数量相差很大,就证明它是假老虎,是颜料混合色。

  • 为中国哭

    难怪中国会成为骗子和冒险家的乐园

  • 还原真相

    如此拙劣之残疾纸虎,何国威之有?国人当以被愚弄为耻,仁人志士当以打之为快!!!
    呼唤科学真理,支持有良知有血性的科学家。

  • donglu

    it is absurd
    he claimed has taken 71 pictures of this tiger in 20 minutes with a same gesture on that afternoon. about 10 pictures are published now(all in a precisely same gesture, the tiger posed for pictures???)
    the tiger color is differ from the surroundings.
    differnt distance (5–20meters)with same tiger gusture
    The peasant stalk and search,pictured it alone for about 20 minutes
    the pictures are fake, most chinese people like me, believe it is a paper tiger with a size no bigger than a cat(according to the height and size of the trees and leave beside the tiger paper)
    dear editor, We wish a fair and independent investigation, but the mass voice was neglected.
    Why not investigate???

  • Quinque

    I just saw one photo, and the tigert looked fake to me, its fur color, the leaves. I wish they could give us more photos to prove the tiger is real. Where can I get the other 9 published photos?

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