Zebras and lions filmed running through streets were not filmed during French riots

3 July 2023
What was claimed

Videos show rioters in France have released animals including zebras and lions from Paris Zoo.

Our verdict

There is no evidence to support these claims. At least two of the clips being shared online are old, and there is no information from credible sources to suggest that animals have been released from the zoo.

A number of videos shared on social media claim that animals such as zebras, lions and an elephant have been released onto the streets of Paris during the recent riots

Full Fact has seen videos on Facebook that claim the animals were released from Paris Zoo and others that mention Paris but not the zoo itself. 

The videos have also been extremely widely shared on TikTok and Twitter, gaining millions of views. 

While there are some differences between the videos shared on social media, most of them consist of a number of poor-quality clips apparently recorded using a mobile phone. 

One clip appears to have been filmed from a car, which is following a zebra running down a road, while another appears to show a group of lions also moving down a dark street. A third clip shows two men in balaclavas shining a phone torch on an elephant. 

But at least two of these videos are several years old, and there is no evidence zoo animals have been released by protesters. 

Paris Zoo confirmed to Full Fact that the videos shared online were several years old, and described the claims made about them online as “misleading information”. 

The video of the zebra running through the streets is from April 2020, and was filmed near Chennevières-sur-Marne in the southeastern suburbs of Paris after animals escaped from a nearby circus. 

The video claiming to show lions roaming free has been circulating online since at least February 2020. While text within the videos identify the location as Saint-Denis, another suburb of Paris, we could find no information online from sources such as local media about them having escaped or being deliberately released. 

A spokesperson for Parc zoologique de Paris (Paris Zoo) told Spanish fact checkers at Maldita that lions have “never” escaped the attraction. 

We have not been able to trace the source of the video supposedly showing an elephant. However, we have not seen any information from credible sources to suggest an elephant has been released from the zoo or that it had been broken into during the course of the recent riots. 

There does not appear to be any evidence that zoo animals have been roaming the streets of Paris. 

At the time of writing there are no posts about the riots on the official social media accounts for Paris Zoo, and no information to suggest the zoo has been closed

In response to a question about reports of animals being released, the zoo tweeted that its animals were safe and well.  

A spokesperson for the zoo told Full Fact: “The Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle ensures that no animal from the Paris Zoological Park or the Ménagerie, the zoo of the Jardin des Plantes is wandering in the streets of Paris or the municipalities of Ile-de-France. 

“The safety of animals, visitors and Parisians is fully ensured by the teams and infrastructure. These images, accompanied by misleading information, were filmed during incidents that took place several years ago, in France or abroad, with animals not coming from zoos.”

The recent unrest in France, sparked by the death of teenager Nahel M after he was shot by police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, has become the subject of significant online misinformation and we are currently working to check other false and misleading images and videos being shared. 

Misleading images and videos are some of the most common kinds of misinformation we see online, but they can sometimes be hard to spot. It’s always worth checking if a social media video shows what the post says it does before you share it—we have written a guide on how to do so here.

Image courtesy of Ron Dauphin

Update 7 July 2023

This article has been updated to include a comment from Paris Zoo.

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