Russia has not unleashed 500 lions to stop people going outdoors

24 March 2020
What was claimed

About 500 lions have been released on the streets of Russia to stop people going out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our verdict

This is not true. The Russian government has yet to announce a widespread lockdown of any kind in Russia. The image of the lion is from South Africa in 2016.

An image that looks like a breaking news story and claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has released 500 lions to stop people going outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic has been shared on Facebook.

This is a fake story, as reported by other fact checking websites. (Many people are likely sharing it as a joke, but some people seem to have taken it seriously.)

The post includes an image of a lion walking freely in a residential area. The image is about four years-old and was—according to UK news reports from 2016—taken in South Africa, not Russia.

MailOnline reported at the time that the lion was part of a local film production in Johannesburg. Africa Check debunked a different story in 2019 that used the same image.

The text accompanying the image says “Russia unleashed more than 500 lions on its streets to ensure people are staying indoors during this pandemic outbreak”.

There are no actual reports that Russia has taken this drastic measure to stop the spread of Covid-19 (the infection caused by the new coronavirus). 

At the time that the post was shared on Facebook (22 March), no widespread lockdown measures had been reported in the country, with Vladamir Putin declaring that the outbreak in Russia was “under control”.

As at 24 March 2020, 438 cases of Covid-19 and one death from the virus had been officially reported in Russia (although there have been questions raised about the reliability of these figures). 

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because there is no evidence that lions have been released in Russia and the picture is from South Africa in 2016.

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