Photo of hunter with Pakistan's national animal doctored to show US diplomat
A doctored image has been repeatedly shared in Urdu-language tweets and Facebook posts that falsely claim it shows the "US ambassador to Pakistan" posing after hunting Pakistan's national animal, the markhor goat. The original photo has appeared in multiple reports about an American man who supposedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to hunt the markhor in Pakistan. This photo had been digitally altered to insert the image of the US consul general in Lahore -- not the US ambassador as the posts claim.
"This photo is a true reflection of Pakistan's situation," reads part of the Urdu-language caption to the doctored image shared on Twitter on December 24, 2022.
"The markhor is lying under the American ambassador just like [Pakistan's secret service] are also lying under American policies," it adds.
The image purports to show US diplomat William Makaneole posing with a markhor, a large mountain goat with distinctive spiralling horns.
Makaneole is the US consul general in Pakistan's second most populous city Lahore. The US ambassador to Pakistan is Donald Blome -- whose photo is shown here.
The post circulated as tensions grew between the United States and Pakistan following the ousting of former prime minister Imran Khan in a no-confidence vote in April 2022.
Khan has alleged that his ousting was orchestrated by the United States in a "regime change" conspiracy, and that the current leadership is an "imported government of crooks".
Analysts say no evidence has proven this, but the anti-America message resonates deeply in parts of Pakistan.
The doctored image was also shared in similar posts on Twitter here, here and here; and on Facebook here, here, here, here and here.
But the original photo does not show Makaneole; it has circulated since at least 2016 in reports about foreign trophy hunters in Pakistan.
American trophy hunter
Google reverse image and keyword searches found the photo published in a report by the local news organisation Pamir Times on December 15, 2016.
The photo is uncaptioned, but the report reads: "Fred Rich, a hunter from Texas USA, successfully hunted a Markhor trophy in Chitral today."
"The US national paid USD 100,000 to get the trophy," it adds.
Pakistan's national animal has been classed as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but hunting is allowed for people willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for a trophy hunting permit.
AFP reported that these permits provide a financial incentive for local communities to prevent poaching.
The photo was also published in a report on markhor trophy hunting by The Express Tribune newspaper on November 27, 2018.
Neither the Pamir Times nor The Express Tribune mentions trophy hunting permits being bought by American diplomats.
A similar photo from a different angle was posted on Twitter here by journalist Benazir Samad on December 29, 2016.
"#Markhor trophy hunting #Chitral: American citizen Fred Rich obtained the hunting permit from the #wildlife department for US $100000," reads the tweet.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image (left) and the photo that appeared in the Pamir Times in 2016 (right):
A search on the verified Facebook page of the US Consulate General Lahore found Makaneole's image was taken from this photo published on February 24, 2022.
The caption to the album that contains the photo reads: "CG Makaneole participates in the launch ceremony of PakTESOL, a platform for the Pakistani English Language Teaching (ELT) community in collaboration with Allama Iqbal Open University and University of Education Lahore."
Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image (left) and Makaneole's photo published by the consulate (right):
A spokesperson from Makaneole's office also told AFP the altered image was "fake".
"The image is not Consul General Makaneole. He has not hunted in Pakistan, and no diplomat currently serving at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore has gone hunting in Pakistan," Karl Rogers, spokesperson from the US Consulate General Lahore, said on January 14, 2023.
Online posts carrying the doctored image were also debunked by Pakistan's Geo News here.