Winner verification – a cautionary tale about anteaters

Did you hear the one about the photo of the anteater that won a prize? No? Well, it was a fake. It certainly looks that way anyway, although it seems the Brazilian photographer, Marcio Cabral, is still insisting it wasn’t. This is a shame, because it’s a stunning photo, showing an anteater approaching a glowing termite mount at night, and it won the Animals in their Environment category in the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, which are run by the Natural History Museum.

In fact, since October last year, and until a few days ago, the pic was hanging on the wall at the museum, although I believe it’s now been replaced by a notice explaining that the image was falsified. Awkward, huh? Yes, this is indeed an enormous embarrassment for the Natural History Museum and it underlines how important it is to undertake rigorous winner verification before – and the timing is obviously of the essence – winners are announced.

No one likes to think people cheat, but they do and, sadly, you can’t take competition entries at face value. You need to check that prospective winners are who they say they are and, particularly if it’s a competition which asks entrants to create their own content, confirm that they do actually own their submission. On more than one occasion our research has revealed that they don’t, but at least we’ve uncovered this before the winners have been announced.

To be fair to the Natural History Museum, the long-established Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards has a panel of illustrious judges in place and a robust process based on detailed terms and conditions, which clearly stated, “Entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to disguise and/or misrepresent the reality of nature… Caption information supplied must be complete, true and accurate.” There were also around 50,000 entries from 92 countries to the 2017 competition, which all goes to show just how difficult it can be to get it completely right – as well as how getting it right is so crucial.

So, a cautionary tale for us all about the importance of winner verification, which is one of the many services that the multi-talented prizeologists at Prizeology offer. However, just to be completely honest with you, I’m not sure we can tell the difference between a real and a stuffed anteater. I mean, we’re animal-lovers and we’ve got a big magnifying glass, but I can’t guarantee we would have spotted that the tufts of hair on the head and neck of the anteater in the photo are almost identical to those on the stuffed anteater that greets you at the entrance to the Emas National Park in Brazil. (And it did take five scientists to verify that the photo was a fake…)

We may be busy analysing our pets’ fur patterns, but we’re happy to be interrupted if you think we can help. You can reach us on 020 7856 0402 or

As well Prizeology’s chief prizeologist, Sarah Burns is a Scambassador for the National Trading Standards Scams Team and an anti-scam campaigner.
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