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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke June 2, 2020

No, these aren’t Lincoln Park Zoo animals loose in Chicago

If Your Time is short

  • Lincoln Park Zoo said all its animals were safe and accounted for. 
  • The images shared of different animals are from different sources, different years and different countries.

A giraffe walking the wrong way down a one-way street. A wallaby hopping on a bridge. A hippo trundling by a median. These are among the pictures being on shared Facebook along with claims that amid the protests over George Floyd’s death, people have released zoo animals in Chicago. 

"Yooo they really did let the animals free!!!" reads the June 1 post. Text over a photo of a Lion at a crosswalk says: "Ayo they really set all the animals free out of the dam (sic) zoo." There’s another photo of a man holding a monkey with the words "he then stole Curious George" stamped over the image. A third photo shows a man holding a monkey and the text: "It’s up in Chicago G."  

This post 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.) 

Lincoln Park Zoo confirmed that instinct, announcing on June 1 that all animals were "accounted for and safe," according to the Chicago Tribune. 

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"There were no break-ins, thefts, or incidents last night," the zoo said. "Images circulating, claiming to be of Lincoln Park Zoo animals out of their habitats, are false."

If the photo of the lion is familiar, it’s because in March we debunked it as part of fact-check of what looked like a screenshot of a news broadcast reporting that Russia "unleashed more than 500 lions on its streets to ensure that people are staying indoors during this pandemic outbreak."

The photo of the lion is from an April 2016 movie shoot in Johannesburg. The photo of the giraffe appeared online as early as five years ago, when social media users spread misinformation about a giraffe set loose in Louisville. The hippo? From 2016, when a Spanish publication reported the animal escaped from a circus. And in 2018, the Sydney Morning Herald documented the wallaby that disrupted traffic as it crossed the city’s Harbour Bridge. 

We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire.


Our Sources

Facebook post, June 1, 2020

PolitiFact, No, Russia didn’t release lions to enforce COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, March 24, 2020

Reddit post, Aug. 16, 2014

Louisville Courier-Journal, Purge takes toll on Louisville, April 16, 2014

The Olive Press, Escaped hippo on the loose in Huelva, May 5, 2016

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wallaby in custody after bouncing over Sydney Harbour Bridge, Jan. 16, 2018

Chicago Tribune, No, Lincoln Park Zoo animals were not set loose in Sunday’s looting, June 1, 2020


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No, these aren’t Lincoln Park Zoo animals loose in Chicago

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