After weeks of speculation the image 'The Storybook Wolf' has been disqualified as the winner of the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year due to the animal apparently being a trained animal. The Natural History Museum issued the following statement confirming the disqualification;
A press statement from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition office at the Natural History Museum regarding the disqualification of the image, the storybook wolf, the 2009 overall competition winner
Louise Emerson, from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition office, said:
"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 Wildlife 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."