BEIJING (AFP) — A farmer who caused an outcry after faking a photo of an endangered South China tiger was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Saturday, state media reported.
Zhou Zhenglong, 54, was convicted of fraud at a court in north China's Shaanxi province, and was also fined 2,000 yuan (300 dollars), Xinhua news agency said.
Zhou said he took the photo of the rare animal in October last year, stirring up much excitement in China as the tiger was thought to be nearly extinct in the wild.
He was awarded 20,000 yuan by the provincial forestry department for the feat, Xinhua said.
But experts subsequently revealed the snaps were fake after doubts began to emerge online about their veracity, as some netizens found an old poster with a photo of a tiger which looked like Zhou's picture, Xinhua said.
Police later arrested him after finding an old tiger poster that Zhou allegedly borrowed from a farmer in another village last September to produce his photos, the agency reported.
They also found a wooden model of a tiger claw that Zhou allegedly used to replicate the paw print of a South China tiger on snow, Xinhua said.
The last wild South China tiger sighting was recorded in 1964.
Experts believe no more than 20 to 30 of the big cats remain in the wild, and none has been spotted in decades.
The animal, whose traditional range is southern and central China, is one of six remaining tiger subspecies.
Three other subspecies, the Bali, Java, and Caspian tigers, have all become extinct since the 1940s, according to the US-based Save The Tiger Fund.
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