Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Marcio Cabral’s winning photograph disqualified


Night Raider © 2017 Marcio Cabra

Brazilian photographer Marcio Cabral won the “Animals in Their Environment” category for the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest with his photo titled “The Night Raider”. The photo showed an anteater at a termite mound, captioned:

For three seasons, Marcio had camped out in Brazil’s Cerrado region, on the vast treeless savanna of Emas national park, waiting to capture the termite mounds’ light display. Click beetle larvae living in the outer layers of the mounds flash their bioluminescent “headlights” to lure in prey – the flying termites. Out of the darkness ambled a giant anteater, oblivious of Marcio in his hide, and began to attack the tall, concrete-mud mound with its powerful claws to reach the termites deep inside.

After the award was announced, an anonymous source noticed a remarkable similarity between the stuffed anteater found at one of the entrances of the same national park and the one featuring in Cabral’s photograph.


Photo courtesy Natural History Museum

The National History Museum, enlisted the help of five scientists to investigate. The team comprised two mammal experts and a taxidermy specialist at the NHM, as well as two external experts (one in South American mammals and one specifically in anteaters).

After comparing the anteater in the winning photo with the stuffed on at the park, all five scientists independently concluded that the two were exactly the same anteater: the two anteaters are strikingly similar, but many of the more prominent features and similarities are actually shared among all anteaters. It’s the tiny details that the experts concluded to be too similar.

They “all reached the same conclusion that there are elements in overall posture, morphology, the position of raised tufts of fur and in the patterning on the neck and the top of the head that are too similar for the images to depict two different animals,” the museum wrote.

After “careful and thorough investigation,” the National History Museum announced that Cabral’s photo has been disqualified and the photographer has been stripped of his prize.  The photo will also be removed from the contest’s exhibition and tour.

Cabral continues to strongly deny that photo contains a stuffed anteater and it is important to point out that while there are striking similarities between the two images (and anteaters), there are also notable differences: the stuffed anteater has a large white patch of fur on its front leg, not evident on Cabral’s photograph, for example.

Read the Natural History Museum’s web statement HERE.

So big is the news of this story that it has even made it onto Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show:

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