“Entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to misrepresent the reality of nature” state the rules of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize, run by London’s Natural History Museum. The question is: does taxidermy deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality of nature? Last year’s judges thought it did. As a result, on Friday Brazilian photographer Marcio Cabral was stripped of his 2017 prize.
Titled ‘The Night Raider’, the photo was taken in Brazil’s Emas National Park (located in the states of Goiás and Mato Grosso do Sul) and features an anteater feeding from a mound of bioluminous termites. The illumination of the termites against the contrast of the night sky is dazzling, as is the way they seem to simultaneously stand out from and blend in with the stars. Cabral told Brazilian local media that it had taken him a considerable amount of time to get the image right.
However, in a statement issued by the National History Museum, it was revealed that “third parties” had presented evidence to support the fact that the anteater in the photograph is, in fact, a taxidermy. Eventually, spokespeople from the museum decided that, “after a thorough investigation, the Museum concluded that the available evidence points to the allegation being true.”
Looking at the evidence, which features a taxidermy anteater kept at the Portão do Bandeira entrance gate to the Emas National Park, the resemblance is indeed uncanny. The two separate images were evaluated by five independent scientists who all agreed that they had to have featured the same animal.
A photographer of landscapes and, according to his website, among the five best in panoramic photography in the world, Cabral strongly denies that the anteater in ‘The Night Raider’ is a taxidermy specimen. In the statement produced by the National History Museum on Friday, he even produced a witness to prove that the anteater was real and not stuffed.
Nevertheless, the competition’s judges have slammed what they consider to be his cheating. “I find it disheartening and surprising that a photographer would go to such lengths to deceive the competition and its worldwide following,” commented Roz Kidman Cox, current chair and member of last year’s judging panel, in Friday’s statement.
Kidman Cox also made the most of the opportunity to dissuade any other potential applicants from considering committing similar offences: “this disqualification should remind entrants that any transgression of the rules and spirit of the competition will eventually be found out.”