The BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph have today admitted that picture editors nationwide were duped into reporting that meerkats were capable of taking photographs.

As Amateur Photographer (AP) reported yesterday, the UK widely reported that a cheeky meerkat called Monty had used a Canon EOS 650 to take a portrait at Longleat Safari Park.

The EOS 650 is a 20-year-old film-based SLR camera.

But the reports stated that the pictures were stored on the camera’s ‘digital memory card’, an error quickly spotted by AP technical writer Barney Britton.

This raised doubts about the story – prompting Keith Harris, head warden at Longleat Safari Park, to admit: ‘It started off as a joke. It was a slight hoax. The meerkats didn’t take any pictures at all.’

Commenting on the fiasco, The Guardian‘s media commentator Roy Greenslade said that his newspaper ?accepted the story at face value with a follow-up and a large picture in [today?s] G2? .

In his report, on The Guardian website, he adds: ?There was a glaring error in the story that picture editors should have spotted.?

The Daily Telegraph, which also published the story in good faith yesterday, reports on its website today: ?News of budding photographic talent amongst the UK?s meerkat population has been greatly exaggerated.? A meerkat photo caption adds: ?All was not exactly as it seemed on Meerkat Mountain?.

The story had been distributed to the press by South West News Service, an agency whose picture editor Paul Walters today told The Daily Telegraph he had accepted the images ?in good faith? as the work of the meerkats. ?We?ve been duped ultimately,? he told the paper.

Roy Greenslade added: ?The revelation of the hoax will certainly be a relief to newspaper photographers, who suffer from the indignity of being called ?monkeys? by reporters. If this had been a true story it would have confirmed the prejudices of their critics.?

The story forced the BBC to apologise this afternoon.

Click on the full Amateur Photographer story here for details of how the hoax was uncovered.