Culture

These Are The Fake Photos To Watch Out For From The Current Bushfire Crisis

No, monkeys can't be running into people's arms because Australia doesn't have monkeys.

Fake Australian Animal Bushfire Photo

It’s estimated that over one billion animals have been affected by Australian bushfires.

Chris Dickman, a professor from the University of Sydney, believes that the fires have killed at least 800 million fauna in NSW. While the actual number of dead and displaced animals is hard to calculate, it’s clear that Australian wildlife have been hit hard this bushfire season.

But, thankfully for the animals who have survived, there has been an outpouring of support locally and internationally. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, for example, was inundated with donations on their GoFundMe page after rumours of koalas going extinct started circulating. The fundraiser, which originally had a goal to raise $25,000, is now sitting at just under $6,000,000.

The discussion around the need for bushfire relief for wildlife has stemmed from Australians sharing images showing the impacts of the fires. But, as with most unverified reporting, this has started the spread of fake content online.

This spread of fake news has most recently been seen in the claims that wombats have been shepherding fire-stricken animals into their burrows for safety. Greenpeace NZ posted the unverified information on their Instagram, which quickly spread across social media as fact. This has since been deemed “unlikely” by ecologists, but hasn’t stopped other fake content circling online.

No, That Woman Hugging The Kangaroo Didn’t Save It From Fire

One of the biggest fake videos that has gone viral is the video of a blonde woman hugging a koala. The tweet, which was uploaded by @roastedrants on January 7th, gained over 1.4 million likes in just three days. The video was accompanied by the caption: “Kangaroo can’t stop hugging the volunteer who saved her life.”

While, yes the kangaroo in the video is hugging the woman, the video has nothing to do with the bushfires. It was actually taken at the Kangaroo Sanctuary in the Northern Territory, an area not in the main bushfire zone.

The video in question belongs to Laura Brown, a magazine editor who spent some time over the new year at the Alice Springs animal centre. Originally uploaded on January 2nd, Laura shared a caption related to bushfires which may have caused confusion.

Just one more. A hug from Abi to all of you,” Laura wrote. “Please support the @thekangaroosanctuary, @portmacquariekoalahospital, @adelaidekoalarescue and @nswrfs if you can – also anyone working to combat climate change. It’s a battle down here in our beautiful country.”

On her Instagram page, along with her viral hugging video, Laura also posed with koalas and wombats at Featherdale Wildlife Park.

False. Monkeys Aren’t Running To Humans For Help

Now this one is pretty crazy, but has somehow fooled over six million people on TikTok. The video features a chimpanzee screaming and running into the arms of a woman while a sad Hindi song plays in the background. The video has a text overlay that reads: “Australia[n] animals are running towards human[s] for help.”

Now, let’s set one thing straight before we dive into the origin of the video. Australia does not have wild chimps. Chimpanzees are native to the continent of Africa and only exist in other countries in captive environments, like zoos.

The chimp in the video is actually Poppy (Picky P), a resident at the Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection centre. She was rescued by rangers who took her from animal smugglers at a city checkpoint.

The Rescue & Protection centre posted the video of an excited Poppy on November 26, 2019 from the sanctuary in Liberia. Poppy wasn’t screaming in fear in the video either. The orphaned chimp was just excited to see Jenny, her rescuer, after mere weeks apart.

The caption that accompanied the centre’s video reminded viewers that this is not normal behaviour for primates. So the idea that chimps would ever “run to humans for help”, which the viral video perpetuated, is totally wrong.

View this post on Instagram

Joyful Reunion! If this isn’t proof that chimps have feelings I don’t know what is … surprising our Poppy (Picky P) after far too many weeks apart! 💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞 TO DONATE- please find link in our bio! 💞💞💞 Poppy lives at LCRP’s sanctuary in Liberia with many other chimps and caregivers – we will soon be moving to our hundred acre wood – a forest where she can run free and far with her friends! More news coming soon! 👏👏👏 IMPORTANT NOTE: **Chimpanzees are not and should not be pets or forced to live with humans.** The chimpanzee orphans at LCRP's sanctuary in West Africa are victims of the bushmeat and illegal pet trade. Their mothers were tragically killed by poachers and require around the clock care. Thanks to the dedicated caregivers and staff, the orphans are being rehabilitated so that they will be able to thrive with others in a natural and safe environment when they’re older. Please support LCRP’s efforts to rescue chimpanzees in need to keep wild chimps wild ❤️

A post shared by LCRP (@liberiachimprescueprotection) on

That Apocalyptic Ocean Koala Photo Is Photoshopped

American DJ Steve Aoki tweeted out ways that people could help with Australia’s bushfire crisis earlier this week. The photo he chose to show the severity of the disaster was one of a young girl with a face mask, holding a koala. In the image, the unidentified child stands in the ocean as smoke and flames burn behind her.

But the photo is actually an edit done by Australian artist @thuie. Using a photo of her daughter standing in a body of water, Thu photoshopped the rest of the elements in.

“It’s been a sombre few days as fires are ripping through neighbouring areas,” Thu captioned the image. “So todays art is dedicated all the brave FIREFIGHTERS who are trying to save Mother Earth and all her children.”

After Thu noticed that the image was going viral, she updated her Instagram post. Seeing that people were claiming the image was real, Thu wrote: “Please make sure that you mention it is a photoshop edit (this is what my account is known for).”

The likelihood of this photo ever being real was always low. If the fire were real, all the air through the photo would be smoky. Plus  I doubt anyone in that situation would ever think to stop for a quick shot.

View this post on Instagram

Its been a sombre few days as fires are ripping through neighbouring areas. So todays art is dedicated all the brave FIREFIGHTERS who are trying to save Mother Earth and all her children. Countless trees, hundreds of koalas, homes and a couple of good humans lost to this disaster and it’s a reminder to all that the gift of Christmas, cannot be wrapped and put under the tree. #prayingforrainandamiracle #banksiiantics #photoshop Update **: This post has now gone viral please make sure that you mention it is a photoshop edit (this is what my account is known for) Thankyou Update: I can see that the wonderful IG is spreading awareness with this image, please if you can help with donations to either (or many others) Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief Salvation Army Disaster Appeal St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal (NSW community. NSW RFS Donations Page Make an online donation to the NSW RFS Trust Fund or a participating brigade

A post shared by Thu + Banksii + Denali (@thuie) on

It’s Not Just The Animals

Beyond the fake wildlife content being shared online, photos of the country on fire are also being circulated.

In particular, an orange-tinged photo of a family huddled together under a bridge is being presented as the impacts of the 19-20 fires. But the image actually came from the 2013 fires in Dunalley, Tasmania. While the photo is seven years old, it easily fit into the recent photos that show the current conditions across the country.

Another image being shared by influential names is of a map of Australia on fire. Rihanna tweeted the photo out to her 95 million Twitter followers, calling the bushfires “devastating.” Believed to be an official NASA photo, the visualisation was actually just a creation by artist Anthony Hearsey.

The original image has now been flagged as “false information” on Instagram. Anthony explained that people should look at the image as a graph. “This is a 3D visualisation of the hotspots in Australia. NOT A PHOTO,” he updated his post.

The image was created using satellite data from NASA on the fires but is not a photo by NASA. Anthony claims this is why his original image was flagged as presenting incorrect information.

It’s important to remember that while we are all desperate for information, it’s important to stay alert and aware of fake content being spread online. At the end of the day, if you’re not sure, don’t share it.