The pictures, which showed a tiger crouching in a forest setting, sparked an Internet furore led by experts who identified the photos as faked. Local media accused officials of endorsing them as a means of promoting tourism in a poor region.
But Zhou, who was given a suspended jail sentence this year for the fraud, has returned to his original claim that he really did photograph a tiger, the official Xinhua news agency said in a report on its website (www.xinhuanet.com) [Chinese].
It published a brief handwritten letter by Zhou describing his first encounter with a tiger in the summer of 2007, which he said he was unable to photograph due to a problem with his camera. He said was only able to take pictures in October of that year.
From Xinhua, selectively translated by CDT:
According to media reports, Zhou Zhenglong has issued a statement that his tiger photos were not faked. With this news, the South China tiger furor which was thought to be settled, has now been reignited.
Zhou has claimed that he has already commissioned a defense lawyer to prepare materials for an appeal in his second hearing. This has been confirmed by the lawyer Gu Yushi, who stated that he will finish his defense preparation within the next two to three days.
However, this is a contentious issue for those on the other side who contest the photos, as people like Hao Jinsong [a prominent Beijing lawyer] and Liu Liyuan [associate professor at Beijing Normal University] who have proposed their own opposing statement in an interview.
[Zhou Zhenglong’s letter]
From August to September 2007, I followed the tiger’s tracks. On September 17th, I stayed in the mountains for two days; there was light rain. I followed the footprints. It was only until I was eating wild boar that I saw the back half of the tiger’s body. I took a photo, but the camera was bad; the film didn’t develop. It was an adult female tiger.
Because the footprints were big, on October 3rd, I was still in the mountains, following the tiger’s tracks. That day, before daybreak, a little later than 4 AM, I saw one young tiger … Altogether, after following tracks for over a month, I saw it twice.
… These photos are real, and were not faked.