VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts MISLEAD by mixing photos of animals killed and hurt in current and past fires in Australia

At least three viral, misleading Facebook (FB) posts about animals affected by the ongoing bushfires in Australia are making the rounds on social media, mixing photos of the current disaster with outdated and out-of-context images.

From Jan. 4 to 6, three FB pages uploaded photo sets that showed burning or charred animals, animals in burning forests, and animals in areas blackened by fires, presenting them as victims of the fires now ravaging Australia.

All three carried the 26 photos shared by Proudly Capiznon, three more images were published by Mr. Fluffy and IGNORE only, and five others were posted by the IGNORE page alone.

The FB pages cited a “University of Sydney report” as their source, and said the “huge wildfire” in Australia has killed over 480 million animals.

The University of Sydney has released a statement on Jan. 3 saying the bushfires in New South Wales since September 2019 have killed an estimated 480 million animals. However, the FB posts misled readers by combining photos of the current fires with those taken in 2018 and previous fires in Australia, as well as in the United States and the United Kingdom. A couple of photos were also of animals who underwent taxidermy, a type of preservation.

Of the 34 photos, only nine are from the ongoing fires across Australia, specifically in the states of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

Current fires in Australia

Note: Click on the photos to get redirected to their earliest retrievable version online

Twelve of the photos were outdated as they were from fires in Australia which took place between 2009 and 2017, while eight were of animals affected by fires in California in the U.S., taken from 2003 to 2019.

Past fires in Australia

Note: Click on the photos to get redirected to their earliest retrievable version online

Past fires in the U.S.

Note: Click on the photos to get redirected to their earliest retrievable version online

Two photos of dead, preserved animals being burnt by authorities in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012 were also misleadingly included in the post, as well as a photo of a deer taken in the U.K. in 2012 during sunset, and not during a fire.

While the location where the remaining two photos were taken cannot be traced, earliest retrievable copies show they are outdated as well: the metadata of a photo of a dead kangaroo in a ditch shows it was taken in 2009, while a stock image of a deer with a burning hill in the background shows it was uploaded as early as 2016.

Other various sources

Note: Click on the photos to get redirected to their earliest retrievable version online

Although some netizens who shared or commented on the posts have pointed out the inaccuracy of some of the photos, many were still deceived into thinking that all the animals in the posts are victims of the ongoing fires that have caused massive destruction across Australia and killed 27 people. The country experiences what is called a fire season every summer due mostly to natural causes but the current blaze that began last September is said to be the worst in decades.

The three misleading FB posts were collectively shared by over 134,000 people in less than a week.

FB page Mr. Fluffy PH was created on Feb. 8, 2019; I G N O R E on Dec. 1, 2019; and Proudly Capiznon on Aug. 23, 2013.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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