Chinese farmer imprisoned for fake tiger photos

BEIJING Wed May 5, 2010 3:19pm EDT

A South China tiger is pictured at Shanghai zoo July 8, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Aly Song

A South China tiger is pictured at Shanghai zoo July 8, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese farmer who was found guilty of doctoring photos of an endangered tiger and collecting a cash reward from wildlife authorities has been put in jail after failing to report to parole officers, a news report said.

The photos by Zhou Zhenglong, a 54-year-old farmer from mountainous Zhenping county in northern Shaanxi province, raised hopes that the South China tiger might still exist in the region.

Local officials used that to promote tourism and a wildlife reserve, and rewarded him with 20,000 yuan ($2,930) before the fraud was exposed by local media and Internet experts.

Zhou was sentenced in 2008 to jail with a three-year reprieve, which normally means the convicted person remains at liberty.

But he was imprisoned for two years starting last weekend after a court found he "had not cooperated with monitoring officials and had not reported his thinking and activity," the Beijing Morning Post said on Wednesday.

Authorities have admitted the pictures were fake after months of stalling, and sacked a number of officials for their part in the scandal.

An investigation by China's State Forestry Administration has also excluded the possibility of tigers in Zhenping.

(Reporting by Yu Le and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee)

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