Rescued koalas and kangaroos: five fake images from Australia's fires

Fake images of the wildfires in Australia have been circulating on social media. Our team took a look at five of these images that are getting a lot of traction.
Fake images of the wildfires in Australia have been circulating on social media. Our team took a look at five of these images that are getting a lot of traction.

At least 24 people and 500 million animals have been killed in the devastating wildfires that have been raging in Australia for the past few weeks. Impressive photos of the fires and touching images of rescues have been circulating online. However, it turns out that some of these photos are fake.

1. The photo of the little girl holding a koala

Around 28,000 koalas, representing a third of the total population, are estimated to have perished in the fires. Many people have been sharing images of koalas in an attempt to raise awareness about the need to save animals. A photo showing a little girl clutching a koala in her arms is one of the images that has been widely shared.

Tweet by @epee_la (translated from French): #Australia #Australia this little girl [escaped] the flames and saved a #koala

The photo is actually a composite of several different images. If you do a reverse image search (click here to find out how), it shows that it was previously published on Instagram. The person behind the account that posted it updated the caption on December 22 to explain that the image had been Photoshopped.

Our team reached out to her and she sent us the original image (see below). She told us:

I wanted to make this montage during the Christmas period because everyone around me was wondering if they had bought enough presents. I wanted to remind them to be happy that they were healthy, with a roof over their heads unlike the people who died or lost their homes during these fires.

If you crop the koala in the Photoshopped image and run it through a reverse image search, then you’ll pull up the original photo of the koala. The woman who made the photomontage simply used a mirror effect to invert the image and then got rid of the leaves in its fur.

The original photo of the koala used in the photomontage can be found on this website.


2. The woman who “saved” a kangaroo

Kangaroos, another symbol of Australia, have also suffered immensely in these fires. A touching video shared online claims to shows a woman hugging a kangaroo that she just managed to rescue from the flames.

However, the caption on this photo is downright false. This video was actually posted on Instagram on January 1 by the editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine after she visited a kangaroo sanctuary in Australia. She wanted to show her support for the protection of these animals and also made an appeal for donations.

The journalist didn’t say anything about having “saved” the kangaroo in her post. The post on the sanctuary’s Facebook page didn’t say anything about the kangaroo having been rescued either. It just said that the animal's name is Abi. Social media users commented on the same video of Abi, indicating that the kangaroo has been in the sanctuary for months.


3. Not a real satellite photo

This image, regularly presented as a satellite image of Australia and the fires, was shared widely on social media.

Tweet by @samtoum (translated from French): 'Australia: The apocalypse. Satellite image at night'

It's not a real map, but a graphic visualisation of the bushfires, created using NASA data on bushfires, according to the person who created it.

The person who made this map says that it is a 3D creation developed using data collected between December 5, 2019 and January 5, 2020.

4. Did rain in Australia finally put out the fires?

A large number of primarily Spanish-speaking social media users celebrated videos of rain falling on areas destroyed by fires. One video in particular shows firefighters dancing to celebrate the rain.

The video was indeed filmed in Australia… but over a month ago, on November 25, 2019. The Leongatha Fire Brigade posted this video to celebrate the rain, after weeks battling fires raging in the Rolland Plains area.


5. Old images alongside recent ones

Many posts, mostly on Twitter, include real photos of the fires taken recently in Australia, with others that have nothing to do with the current situation. The post below, which was shared more than 39,000 times, is a good example. All of these photos were taken in Australia in November and December… except for the photo of a family on the top right.

This photo was actually taken in 2013, when a wildfire was raging in Dunalley in Tasmania. This family sought refuge underneath a jetty to escape the flames and wait for help.

The Guardian Article told this family's story through images in 2013.


Do you have any other examples of photos or videos that you think are suspicious? Let us know! You can reach us via Twitter at @InfoIntoxF24!


Article by Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron)