Photos of animals caught in floods unrelated to Ukraine dam attack

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on June 13, 2023 at 08:51
  • Updated on June 26, 2023 at 13:08
  • 8 min read
  • By AFP Thailand, AFP South Africa
After the destruction of a major dam in Ukraine unleashed devastating floods, social media posts and news reports falsely linked old photos to the disaster. The pictures of dogs swimming and livestock stranded by the deluge were not taken in Ukraine but during previous flooding in Thailand, Australia and Russia.

"A large number of pets have been left stranded in floodwaters after the giant dam in Kherson area in Ukraine was attacked," reads a Thai-language tweet posted on June 7.

"Ukraine points its finger at Russia, Russia denies!"

The claim circulated a day after the Kakhovka Dam in the southern Kherson region was destroyed. As of June 23, Ukrainian authorities had counted at least 21 fatalities, while Russian authorities put the death toll at more than forty (archived here).

Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of blowing up the dam (archived link).

Screenshot of the misleading tweet, taken on June 8, 2023

The photos circulated in similar posts on Facebook and Twitter that falsely said it showed animals stranded after the attack.

A string of Ukrainian news outlets also published the photos in their coverage of the disaster, including here, here and here.

Thailand dogs

A Google reverse image and keyword search found the photo of dogs swimming was taken in Thailand.

The Soi Dog Foundation, a Thai charity which helps stray animals, shared the picture on October 15, 2022 in a Facebook post about dogs and cats affected by flooding in northeastern Thailand (archived link).

Screenshot of the photo published on the original Facebook post, captured on June 9, 2023

The same image was also featured in an article about the foundation's flood relief for animals in northeastern Thailand in 2022 (archived link).

Chutima Srisawang, a spokeswoman for the Soi Dog Foundation, said the photo was taken by a member of staff on October 10, 2022 in Thailand's Ubon Ratchathani province.

"The photo was taken by Soi Dog staff who went to deliver food to stranded animals in Ubon Ratchathani," she told AFP on June 7.

Australia cow

Another reverse image and keyword search on Google found the photo of a cow in a report about floods in Australia in 2021.

The Reuters report from March 2021 reported on torrential rain in several parts of the country that swept away homes, roads and livestock (archived link).

The photo of the cow is credited to Reuters photographer Loren Elliott.

The photo caption reads: "Livestock is seen as floodwaters rise in the suburb of Windsor, as the state of New South Wales experiences widespread flooding and severe weather, in Sydney, Australia, March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott".

Screenshot of the original photo from the Reuters report in 2021, captured on June 8, 2023

Siberia pig

A reverse image search on Russian search engine Yandex found the image of a pig in an article by Russian newspaper Amurskaya Pravda from July 2019 (archived link).

The article is about flooding in Russia's far eastern Amur Oblast and the photo is credited to the "Selemdzhinsky District Administration", a local municipal district government in the region.

Screenshot of the image published in an article from 2019, captured on June 9, 2023

A similar photo appearing to show the same pig evacuated on a boat featured in another article about the floods from 2019.

The Siberian Times published the same photo in a report about major flooding in the Amur region.

Claims in Africa

Posts in Africa included other pictures of animals in distress.

“The photos below show just what some of the free/homeless animals are going through,” reads part of a Facebook post published on June 6, 2023, that labelled Russia “terrorists” following the dam disaster (archived).

The post published four pictures of dogs surrounded by water in an appeal for aid.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on June 14, 2023

A reverse image search showed that the first picture has been online since at least November 4, 2011, when it was featured in another Soi Dog Foundation Facebook post (archived) published during flooding in Bangkok.

“I can confirm the photograph belongs to Soi Dog Foundation and has circulated for many years,” Sam McElroy, the foundation's operations director told AFP Fact Check on June 23, 2022.

“The image was taken in October 2011 by Soi Dog rescue team as part of our emergency relief effort for animals trapped by heavy monsoon flooding during the infamous Bangkok floods,” McElroy said.

The dog in the image -- Maxine -- was later adopted by a loving family, added McElroy, and can be seen swimming on the left side with a number of other dogs in this video showing the foundation's rescue mission at the time.

At the time, Thailand was devastated by floods that killed more than 800 people, as reported here and here (archived here and here).

The picture is also seen in an article on January 16, 2012, about an American veterinarian who volunteered in Thailand when the floods struck (archived).

A screenshot of the article, taken on June 22, 2023

The image in the second frame showing two dogs perched on a log is neither recent nor depicts events in Ukraine.

“Two stranded dogs in the flood water in Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil,” reads the identical captions on stock image websites Shutterstock and Adobe Stock (archived here and here).

Screenshots of the picture on stock image websites

The image search engine TinEye shows that the picture has been online since at least March 26, 2022.

A screenshot of the results on TinEye, taken on June 14, 2023

Brazil has been hit by a series of deadly weather disasters in recent years, which experts say are worsened by climate change, including this month’s cyclone which has claimed at least 13 lives so far (archived).

The last picture in the post was published on iStock on July 1, 2020 (archived).

Although it doesn’t specify where it was taken, it is credited to photographer Petr Gonchar and is often used as a generic illustration for floods (archive here).

A screenshot of the 2020 photo on iStock

Another Facebook post circulating in Africa and dated June 8, 2023, features a picture of a child wading through high water and holding aloft a puppy (archived here).

“Ukrainian Boy Rescues His Dog from War Crime Flood,” reads part of the caption which refers to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.

A screenshot of the false post, taken on June 14, 2023

Reverse image searches showed that the image appeared online in November 2012 on a Russian website called “Jokes Land”, as seen on the archiving tool Wayback Machine.

The superimposed text on the meme translates to: “Without words ... Die yourself, but help out a comrade”.

A screenshot of the meme on Jokes Land, taken on June 14, 2023

TinEye shows versions of the same picture online from April 2012. No further details about the image could be found.

A screenshot of the reverse image search results on June 14, 2023
June 26, 2023 ADDS posts circulating in Africa and updates death tolls

Is there content that you would like AFP to fact-check? Get in touch.

Contact us