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We recently came across a Facebook page that posted a collection of heartbreaking images that purports to show scenes of different animals caught in the fires.
There’s just one problem: Many of the images are not from the wildfires in Australia. Some are not even from a fire event.
We fact-checked several of the photos in the post, including this viral photo of a tiger on fire that was taken in 2012 in Jakarta, Indonesia. It depicted a bonfire of taxidermy animals.
The multi-photo post that included that image has been shared over 84,000 times since Jan. 4 and displays 29 photos showing animals surrounded by smoke or fire, with the caption, "Huge wildfire in Australia has resulted in deaths of more than 480 milion animals. Hundred of rare koalas are also reported dead among them. Lets pray for Australia Source: University of sydney report #wildfire."
The University of Sydney estimated on Jan. 3 that 480 million animals have been killed in the New South Wales bushfires since September 2019.
The post containing this photo gallery was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We were able to track down several of the photos using the reverse-image search tool, Tin Eye.
Here are some that are included in the post with their original locations and dates. (Note to readers that many of these images are disturbing.)
An image of a horse being pulled through a smoky field was taken by photographer Étienne Laurent on Oct. 30, 2019, in Simi Valley, California. Horses were being pulled by ranchers to evacuate a burning ranch as the Easy Fire spread.
A photo of a deer standing near a burned residence shows the aftermath of the Camp Fire that tore through Paradise, California. The photo was taken on Nov. 10, 2018, by photographer Josh Edelson. (Another image of a deer in the post wasn’t taken during a fire event and was found on Adobe Stock Images, titled "Red Deer in morning Sun.")
A photo of a group of burned sheep lying dead in a field was taken in Australia, but it was taken in January 2013 in a New South Wales field after bushfires swept through the area.
Though this viral post contains a smattering of images that are legitimately connected to the current wildfires devastating Australia, it appears an overwhelming number of those depicted here are not. We rate this post Mostly False.
Facebook post, Jan. 4, 2020
Wall Street Journal, The Australia Fires in Photos: Here’s What We Know, Jan. 5, 2020
Shutterstock.com, Easy Fire in Simi Valley, USA, Oct. 30, 2019
Getty Image, US-FIRE-CALIFORNIA-ENVIRONMENT-WEATHER, Nov. 10, 2018
Adobe Stock Images, Red deer in morning Sun, Accessed Jan. 6, 2020
Enterprise-Record, Photos: Fire-singed animals suffer in Paradise Camp Fire, Nov. 11, 2018
Habitat Advocate, Blog post, May 21, 2011
New York Daily News, California wildfire raging in Yosemite National Park gains strength, Aug. 25, 2013
CNN, Australia's farmers on the front line of global weather extremes, Jan. 11, 2014
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