A Chinese newspaper has apologized after it was discovered that one of its photographers faked a prize-winning photo of Tibetan antelopes calmly passing beneath a controversial railway as a train roared past.
Chinese state media reported Monday that the newspaper's (the "Daqing Evening News") chief editor and the photographer have resigned, after news of the forgery began circulating on the Internet.
Photographer Liu Weiqiang issued an apology on the Internet admitting to splicing together two photographs so that the endangered animals and the train would seem to have appeared at the same time.
China's official Xinhua news agency says the picture was surprising, given that zoologists describe Tibetan antelopes as very sensitive to noise.
Liu's photograph shows the animals passing below the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which critics have said threatens the sensitive environment along its path, as well as opening Tibet up to further Han Chinese migration.
But Liu said his photograph showed that people could live in harmony with nature. He says he waited over two weeks in a remote area in Qinghai province in an unsuccessful effort to photograph antelopes unconcerned by a passing train.
The photo supposedly was taken in mid-2006, just before the full, two-thousand-kilometer-long rail line opened between Qinghai province in western China and Lhasa, Tibet's capital.
Chinese Central Television chose the widely-circulated photograph as one of the most impressive of 2006.
Chinese planners revised the original design and route of the Qinghai-Tibet railway to take into account the antelopes' annual migration between their feeding and breeding grounds.
In recent years, Beijing also has cracked down on widespread poaching of Tibetan antelopes. The animals were being slaughtered for their ultrafine wool, used to make expensive and rare shahtoosh shawls. International trade in shawls made from chiru wool has been banned to protect the endangered species.