Fake news alert: Story of antelope sacrificing its life is untrue, says photographer

Fake news alert: Story of antelope sacrificing its life is untrue, says photographer
PHOTO: Alison Buttigieg

If you've seen or shared a story on Facebook about a mother impala (a medium-sized antelope) sacrificing herself to save her young, remove it immediately.

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg has stepped forward to clarify that the viral story is fake.

Ms Buttigieg's photo of an impala staring impassively into the camera while three cheetahs home in on the kill became fodder for the fake news machine recently.

A caption claimed that the impala was sacrificing herself to save her young and that the photographer fell into depression shortly after the photo was taken. The post has since been shared many times on various Facebook pages.

Hundreds of concerned netizens have also reached out to Ms Buttigieg to check on her wellbeing.

Outraged that her photo was used to propel sensationalism, Ms Buttigieg wrote on Facebook that the viral story violated copyright issues and posed a threat to her career.

What really happened

Ms Buttigieg posted a link to her site which detailed the real story behind the 2013 photo series, titled Cheetah Kill.

According to Ms Buttigieg, the series depicts the haunting process of how a cheetah teaches her young to kill.

She observed that contrary to the cheetahs' excitement, the impala was poised, proud even - which she attributed to being paralysed by fear.

"It is disturbing how it seems to be posing in some photos, especially in the 6th one as if determined to stay beautiful and proud until its very end," she wrote.

"The defiance in its eyes are in stark contrast with its lack of interest in self-preservation."

For the record, there were no young impala calves at all. 

The rise of fake news

Social media has become inundated with fake news of late, peaking during the US presidential elections to discredit political candidates.

But more than that, lifestyle and entertainment websites have also hopped on the bandwagon, using fake and sensational headlines to attract pageviews.

A recent video claiming to identify a group of diners who spent over $200,000 on a dinner in Sentosa, was called out as fake.

Another story from All Singapore Stuff "reported" that a man had returned home to find his pet luo han fish fried and served for dinner.

It went viral for obvious reasons, but was soon outed as fake. Vulcan Post tracked down the original post and noted that the user had admitted to snagging the photo off the Internet.

It's not always easy to discern between real and fake news. But readers can always go one extra step to verify sources before they become complicit in perpetuating viral untruths.

debwong@sph.com.sg

 

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