Posts falsely claim video of cheetahs was filmed in South Africa and sold for $1 million

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Facebook posts have shared a video of a woman confronting a coalition of cheetahs with claims that National Geographic bought the footage allegedly filmed in South Africa for $1 million. But this is false: the video was filmed in neighbouring Namibia and features conservationist Marlice Van Vuuren showing how cheetahs behave. Her foundation told AFP Fact Check that this clip had never been sold to anyone.

The two-minute video shows a woman arriving on a dirtbike and finding herself surrounded by cheetahs. She manages to control the situation and shoo the large cats away.

"This film was sold for $1 million dollar to national Geographic. It is virtually impossible not to keep watching this footage, which was captured by a guy on is cell phone at Kruger national park in SA (sic)," reads a Facebook post with more than 2,700 shares.

A screenshot of the false Facebook post

The same claim was also shared here and here on Facebook.

A Google search showed that the claim had been debunked in July 2021 by Indian verification website Factly.

Factly debunked two other video posts that made similar claims about National Geographic buying images for $1 million: one in 2020 about a shark pulling down a helicopter and another in 2021 related to tornadoes at an airport in Toronto, Canada.

Cheetah behaviour

Some Facebook users in the comments section said the video showed Van Vuuren with her cheetahs.

The conversationist and her husband own the N/a’an ku sê Foundation in Namibia.

Videos featuring Van Vuuren on the charity's website show that she is indeed the woman seen in the footage on Facebook.

The foundation has done a number of projects with National Geographic over the years (including here and here).

However, its head of fundraising, Colette Massier, said the video circulating on social media was neither filmed in South Africa nor sold to National Geographic.

"National Geographic did not buy the footage," Massier told AFP Fact Check. "The footage was never sold in any way."

She said Belgian filmmaker Etienne Verhagen shot the clip on the Harnas farm in Namibia in 1998.

Van Vuuren was trying to show the difference in behaviour between cheetahs and leopards -- notably that the former are significantly more submissive than the latter.

“Cheetahs are generally weaker carnivores and more afraid of other carnivores and far less likely to attack,” Massier said.

National Geographic is yet to respond to AFP Fact Check's request for comment.