Late last month, the Telegraph reported that 2009’s Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year was under investigation, after allegations that he violated the rules of the contest. Specifically, contest co-organizer The Natural History Museum (NHM) received a complaint that winning photographer Jose Luis Rodriguez had used an animal model in his remarkable photo of a wolf in mid-air.
Rodriguez vehemently denies the claim, but in a press release issued by the NHM today, Louise Emerson stated:
It saddens us to confirm that after a careful and thorough investigation into the image, the storybook wolf, the co-owners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide Magazine have disqualified the winning entry of the photographer José Luis Rodríguez. The judging panel was reconvened and concluded that it was likely that the wolf featured in the image was an animal model that can be hired for photographic purposes and, as a result, that the image had been entered in breach of Rule 10 of the Competition. The judging panel looked at a range of evidence and took specialist advice from panel judges who have extensive experience of photographing wildlife including wolves. They also considered the responses to specific questions put to the photographer José Luis Rodriguez.
The competition rules clearly state that photographs of animal models may not be entered into the competition and that images will be disqualified if they are entered in breach of Rule 10. Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition rules are available to all entrants including versions translated into several languages.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the world’s most prestigious photography competition of its kind. Any transgression of the competition rules is taken very seriously and if entries are suspected of breaching the rules they are disqualified. José Luis Rodríguez’s image will be removed from the exhibition and tour.
Mr Rodriguez strongly denies that the wolf in the image is a model wolf.
The £10,000, first place prize will not be re-awarded, and Rodriguez will his £500 category winner’s check in lieu of royalty payments.