The internet consists of two major ingredients: Porn, and adorable animals. Everything else is pretty much a churning sea of virulence and racism. But what if we told you that those animal pics actually ain't so pretty? As it turns out, there's a chance many of them could be faked—and in some pretty cruel ways at that.
At least, that's what an analysis posted on Weibo and translated into English by photographer Jenn Wei purports. It claims that photos like the one above—which would otherwise seem to have come from a little bit of patience and a whole lot of luck—are actually staged by photographers using easy-to-photoshop-out objects (like string) to force pet store critters into some highly unnatural postures.
And it's not just amateur pics cropping up on Tumblr that might potentially be guilty of coercion; a few professional and even award-winning photographs have been accused of being "obvious" fakes. For instance, the photo below taken by Indonesian photographer Shikhei Goh was featured in The Telegraph, and was supposedly possible thanks to geckos' tendencies to enter a "trance-like state" when placed on glass. The analysis, however, believes that the position clearly implies a carefully placed string is to blame for the gecko's bizarre contortions.
The original post argues:
These are leopard gecko, naturally found in Central Asia and common pet. Anyone who’s had them as pets know they won’t be able to pose like this even if they took ecstasy. All these are with the help of a simple thread.
It also notes this frog from Goh as another potential string-induced fake.
In addition to some of these animals merely being in (supposedly) impossible positions, they also somehow managed to find themselves in the wrong country. In the below photo, Shikhei Goh (the same accused from above) claims that he saw a chameleon clinging to a shoot of grass during a walk in Indonesia. Then "all of a sudden it shot its tongue out [and] caught its prey." Which would all be fine and great if not for the fact that the animal has been identified as a panther chameleon, a breed only found natively in Madagascar.
Sometimes, the condition of the animal itself is what lends to its falsified cred. In the below photos by Indonesian photographer Penkdix Palme, this tree frog appears to be holding a leaf like an umbrella in order to shield itself from some questionably uniform rain. Aw, look, it think's its people, you might say, how fun. Except when you take a closer look, according to Weibo's analyst, things get dark, and fast.
Of course, the first problem comes in the fact that, though Palme claimed the frog had stayed in the same position for a whole 30 minutes, it's in fact holding an entirely different leaf in that last photo. Plus, frogs need water to stay naturally moist—the thought of shielding themselves from a light rain likely wouldn't ever even cross their mind. But the heart-breaking part comes in the final assertion; the frog already doesn't look to be in great condition, but the red bruises on its legs are pretty definite signs of potential injury.
Now, nothing has been definitively proven to be a fake. And although some of these analyses offer some pretty convincing evidence, as Peta Pixel points out, the claims being made are of a pretty serious nature—one of the purported fakes is a National Geographic award-winning photo. At the very least, this is a welcome reminder that it's important not to take everything we see at face value. This is especially true in the age of the internet, where notoriety is everything and getting there has never been easier.
Saleel is a wildlife photographer and tour operator based in Mumbai.!
He has been travelling to different wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks since last 2 years. His main aim is to spread awareness about wildlife biodiversity in India.