A Photoshopped picture of a benevolent elephant carrying a lion cub reached twenty million people worldwide in two days.
The popular Kruger Sightings platform, which provides visitors to the Kruger National Park with real-time updates on animal sightings, posted the picture on its social media platforms, on Sunday, April 1st.
We were following a lioness carrying her cub & she was getting really tired. An elephant showed up wanting to help the lioness. The elephant put its trunk down, the cub jumped up & the elephant carried the lion cub!!°S28, 3km from S entrance— Kruger Sightings (@LatestKruger) April 1, 2018
Tinged by Sloof Lirpa pic.twitter.com/aebvHwtrv5
Apart from the somewhat rudimentary Photoshop techniques (done by Kruger Sightings founder Nadav Ossendryver) – there was a rather more obvious giveaway: the photo was “tinged” (jargon for "shared") by one Sloof Lirpa – April Fool's spelled backwards.
Ossendryver says the post, which was shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, reached almost 20 million people by Tuesday morning. Astounding, since the platform "only" has 267,000 Facebook followers, and 35,000 on Twitter.
On Sunday, the post quickly went viral in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, and then was shared in the US, Canada and eventually reached millions of people in India. A number of media outlets – including the UK publication The Telegraph and the Microsoft-owned news platform MSN – contacted Ossendryver to secure rights for the “photograph”.
“I had to tell them that they were fooled.”
The New Indian Express newspaper, ran a story about the post quoting a senior wildlife conservationist who spoke about "instances in the wild where predators have shown a ‘human face’ during conflicts”. He cited an incident in Africa of a female leopard who took care of a baby baboon.
“But the photo that was circulated on April 1 certainly cannot be true. We see conflicts between tigers and elephants in India and lions and elephants in Africa,” he explained.
Still, judging from the comments, thousands of people thought the picture was real.
Unbelievable! Wow thanks for this amazing story. What a lesson for us humans ?— V Z Nayeemuddin (@nayeem77) April 2, 2018
Ossendryver, who started Kruger Sightings as a teenager in 2011, has been posting fake wildlife pictures on April Fool’s Day for the past five years.
“Everything just aligned for this one to take off.”
His favourite reaction was from a Facebook follower, who “reported” that the harmonious scene had a rather unfortunate conclusion: the elephant sneezed and the cub was found 18 kilometers away.
An even more scientific approach, based on shadow geometry principles, is that shadows cast off from a single light source [sun, in this case] are always parallel. From the image below, the discrepancy in the shadow angles (98 and 114) are an evidence of editing @LatestKruger. pic.twitter.com/5Y1u0auyWr— Gary Ngara (@gary_ngara) April 1, 2018