With the horrific forest fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district, the fake news menace is on the rise, with several pictures of animals burnt to death being circulated. It is being estimated that the fire gutted 2,000 hectares of the forest. Wildlife may have been lost, but so far, there has been no confirmation. The News Minute reported that the pictures of the charred animals that are being circulated are all taken at different times in different parts of the world.
The image of a snake burnt to death that is being circulated is from the department of Antioquia in northwest Colombia. This happened in a fire that had broken out in the Necoclí region. For the first time, the image had appeared online on April 24, 2015, and therefore, it cannot possibly be from Bandipur.
Another image doing the rounds is that of a rabbit suffering severe burns, but this happens to be from the Woolsey Fire in Malibu in California, USA. It began on November 8, 2018, and was taken by Chris Rusanowsky from the Zuma Press, on or before November 14, 2018.
In February 2016, an image of endangered Bornean orangutans was taken and later on March 3, 2016, it was released by the Center of Orangutan Protection. Most importantly, Orangutans are only found in Borneo and Sumatra, and not in India. The death of these Orangutans is from a forest fire at the Kutai National Park in Borneo Island, in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province.
In another image, which was taken by AFP photographer Lluis Gene, is that of a flock of sheep that were charred to death on July 23, 2012, in a wildfire in Darnius, close to the Spanish-French border, which had gutted over 17,000 acres, reportedly.
Boom Live reported that they could not ascertain where one of the pictures were from, one of a Pampus deer, it was posted by Magda Mofatto, a Brazilian politician, on October 27, 2017, on her verified Facebook page. Reportedly, this image is from a fire at Brazil’s National Park Chapada Dos Veadeiro.
According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Punnati Shridhar, that no dead animals have been found after the Bandipur fire, and that the main tiger reserve is intact.
“As far as we could see, there were none. The animals usually move away seeing the heat. There is a lot of cooked up things in social media,” he said. An activist, who was present on the ground, said that deer could be seen running away from the fire. “This is also breeding season for reptiles and there are ground nesting which we expect will be affected,” the activist said.
The Logical Indian take
As citizens of the country, we have a certain responsibility. While trolls and parody accounts have taken the responsibility upon themselves to share as much false information as possible, it is our responsibility to differentiate between what is true and what isn’t, while making others aware about the issue too.
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.