Fact Check: Has Russia released 500 lions, forcing people to stay indoors given the COVID-19 pandemic ?

Hyderabad: The central government has decided to lockdown about 75 cities throughout the country that have reported corona cases. Some states including Telangana have announced lockdown till March 31, 2020, in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

Many other countries around the world are struggling to keep people inside their homes to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

Amidst this chaos, a photo showing a ferocious lion walking in the middle of a street is going viral on social media.

The picture has breaking news text alert, normally used in television media, stating that “Russia unleashed more than 500 lions on its streets to ensure that people stay indoors in the time of pandemic.”

The picture also has live text on its left top in an attempt to prove that this picture is a screengrab from a live news report. But it did not have any logo of any TV news channel.

Fact Check:

The claim that the Russian government has released 500 lions is FALSE.

None of the major news media outlets from Russia has reported this incident. When performed reverse image search on Google, we found that this picture is on the internet since 2016.

This image can be seen on many meme platforms, with funny captions like “Who’s playing Jumanji?” This meme can be found on a website dated April 4, 2018.

Apart from this, we also found some reports claiming that this picture is from the residential area of Kuwait.

We also found a website africacheck.org, which fact-checked the claim about the residents of Moiben constituency in Uasin Gishu County in western Kenya being worried about lion roaming in their locality.

The article stated that the picture of a stray lion roaming on the streets is from Johannesburg, South Africa.

A lion named Columbus was wandering on the streets of South African city after being released by a local film company.

According to the Johannesburg Roads Agency, the filming had not been approved and the company took a risk by springing the lion without getting the nod for closing the roads.

“But it swiftly turned out that the situation was under control and we weren’t in any danger, despite the lion being so close. The lion was actually part of a film production taking place in Johannesburg city center. So it wasn’t roaming freely as being claimed on social media.” the report added.

This report was published in many other major news media outlets of the world.

An African News agency Caters News Agency published the original report with many pictures showing the lion on the streets of Johannesburg.

Therefore, the above claim is FALSE. This picture of the lion is neither from Russia nor related to COVID-19 pandemic.

It is from 2016 when a local production company released a lion on the streets of Johannesburg, from a nearby park.

Satya Priya BN

Motivated professional with a zeal to learn, Sathya Priya has more than 5 years of experience as a Content and Digital manager in Press, Electronic and Digital media. She is Andhra Pradesh government accredited Multimedia Journalist.
Ms Priya has worked for more than 4 years as Web and Digital media manager in Bhaarat Today, telugu TV channel. Along with news, she has experience in television program production. Demonstrated excellent management and leadership skills to lead the Digital Media staff. Worked collaboratively with staff, management and IT support.
A science Post Graduate, with great computing skills, She is a fact checker certified by Google News Initiative. She has also completed Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Certification from Google.

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