At first glance, the shot is stunning. With the gleaming stars in the top half splayed across the wide grasslands that are desolate save for a tall termite mound in the foreground. Behind it all, the hills are alight with bioluminescent click beetle larvae. However, when you look closer at the subject of the image, there’s a long-snouted creature with clear expectations of its own. The photograph is titled: The Night Raider, in honor of the subject anteater in the night. The photographer, Marcio Cabral, was the recipient of a prize in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition thanks to the anteater.
It is also due to the anteater that he has now lost the honor.
The Natural History Museum of London determines the winners of the annual prize, declared on Friday that Cabral’s photo is disqualified for having the wrong stuff. That is to say; the photo has stuffing at all.
A True Wildlife Preserve: How Cabral was Found Out and What that Means for Future Competitions
In a statement, the museum said they have evidence from third parties. Therefore, it is very likely that the creature in the photograph is taxidermied. At the end of a thorough investigation, investigators concluded that the allegations are true. Because of this, the Museum believes the photo goes against the rules which state that the entries should not deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality of nature.
The investigation, prompted by anonymous tips, took weeks. Many scientists carried out the investigation. They found the anteater in the image bore a striking resemblance to a taxidermy specimen that is displayed at the entrance to Emas National Park in Brazil where he took his photograph. The two were so alike that the investigation team said they had to be the same animal.
There was no immediate response from Cabral to NPR’s request for a comment.
Cabral has wholly denied the allegations against his photo. He ascribes the image to be a product of three years visiting the park. He kept returning hoping for the right conditions, and when they were right, he took a single long exposure photograph.
One of the judges commented that the competition values honesty and integrity. They go on to say that the breaking of this rule shows disrespect to the wildlife photography community. Judges hope this disqualification discourages any other rule-breaking in future competitions.