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Tales from Lockdown: Russia Did Not Use 500 Lions or Tigers…

Photo Credit: Shutterstock 3 mins read

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. 

Full Text

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.

Viral image on WhatsApp

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.

Verification

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.”

Furthermore, the image with the news frames was published on the 22nd of March on a meme website. Here, the headline carries 800 lions and tigers but the image attached said 500 lions.

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.

Lateef Sanni is a graduate of mass communication from Lagos state university. Before joining Dubawa, he belonged to the association of campus journalists where he was trained on the basics of fact-checking, a tool for combating misinformation in Nigeria. He joined the Dubawa team as a researcher and content developer for Dubawa's social media platforms. He consistently works to improve the dissemination of fact-checks through pictures [fact cards] and videos.

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