Photographer wins wildlife competition with stuffed anteater before being disqualified

Some photographers intent on winning wildlife photo competitions have taken the adage of “never work with animals or children” to heart in their quest for fame and fortune, opting to work with taxidermy specimens instead. And anyone who has worked with stuffed animals knows that they’re certainly considerably easier to work with, both in the wild and in a studio setting. Not only is there far less in terms of clean up, the risk of being bitten is also greatly reduced.

Such was the experience of photographer Marcio Cabral, whose image The Night Raider, which shows an anteater moving towards a termite mound in a Brazilian reserve, won the Animals In Their Environment category in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) competition.

The disqualified image,
The disqualified image, "The Night Raider", by Marcio Cabral.

The competition, run by London's Natural History Museum (NHM), has rules which clearly state that use of stuffed animals breaches the entry conditions. While Cabral denies the use of a stuffed animal, the anteater in his image shares a striking resemblance to a taxidermy specimen at a visitors’ centre at an entrance to the park.

As reported in a story on the BBC website, the anteater's appearance was described in the citation caption as being serendipitous - a “surprise bonus” that walked into the shot. When alerted to the possible transgression of the rules, the museum enlisted the help of five scientists to review the winning image and compare it to visitor centre’s display model. Working independently of each other, all came to the conclusion that the two anteaters were one and the same. The experts included the NHM’s own taxidermy specialist, as well as South American mammal and anteater researchers.

The anteater at the visitor centre of the park.
The anteater at the visitor centre of the park.

Roz Kidman Cox has been a judge on WPY for more than 30 years. She told the BBC: “I find it disheartening and surprising that a photographer would go to such lengths to deceive the competition and its worldwide following.”