A Twitter user claimed that Russia released 500 tigers to keep people inside during lockdown.
While this particular image shared by the claim-source was generated from a meme maker website, the original image of the lion was taken in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016, not recently as we have been led to believe by the publisher.
COVID-19, a deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 -currently threatens the world leaving death and panic at its wake. In a bid to flatten the proverbial “transmission curve,” several countries imposed restrictions on movement and trade, and governments have ordered citizens to stay at home.
As restrictions of movement continue in many countries, news about Russia became viral. Then, we received a WhatsApp message displaying a news frame. The news frame claims that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has released 500 lions to the streets to enforce the country’s lockdown rule. But is this true? We found the image on Twitter.
Firstly, Dubawa performed a keywords-search (Russia+Vladimirputin+500+lions+coronavirus+lockdown) that produced several fact-checks that debunk the claim.
One picture many stories
Nonetheless, we decided to get a clearer picture. In addition to our search, we found a Twitter post which claimed that the lions were 800; a contradictory number to the prior post that mentioned 500. @Mawunya_, the Twitter user, said Putin has released 800 lions and tigers to devour anyone who comes out.
After conducting a reverse image search, we found another Twitter post by @zbcnewsonline_ on March 7. The user captioned the image thus:
However, in disbelief, commenters have called the page out and accused it of spreading lies while others labelled it a parody account. One of the comments reads, “It’s a parody account mate. It’s all lies.” Another comment reads, “Where are the potholes? This isn’t Harare.”
Moreover, these images from 2016 further disprove this claim of Putin releasing 500 lions to the streets of Moscow and other cities. Both results agree that the image has nothing to do with the Russian government nor the coronavirus. In actuality, a local film company took a photo of Columbus (the lion’s name) in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016; they had borrowed him from a lion park but failed to notify the authorities.
Remember the meme creator
Recall, we mentioned earlier- in one of our checks– a website that allows users to break any news – Breakyourownnews? Well, it’s work at play here is evident. The author used the website to create this misleading content. The news frame does not carry any news channel’s logo or the graphics; it instead features the meme generator’s watermark.