This photo shows koalas at an Australian zoo in July 2019 -- they were not rescued from bushfires

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on January 21, 2020 at 08:00
  • 7 min read
  • By AFP Australia
A photo of a female koala embracing its baby joey has been shared tens of thousands of times in multiple social media posts, alongside a claim that they were rescued from the recent Australian bushfires. The photo has been shared in a misleading context; the image was taken at a zoo in July 2019, well before the bushfire season began; the zookeeper who captured the image told AFP that the koalas were residents at the zoo and not rescued from the bushfires.

The photo was published in this Facebook post on January 7, 2020.

It has been shared more than 63,000 times.

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post: 


The caption reads: “Mother and son rescued in Australian wildfires. The image reflects what animals feel”.

At least 28 people and an estimated one billion animals have been killed in the bushfires that began in September 2019 in Australia, as reported here by AFP on January 20, 2020.

The same image was shared on Facebook here, here, here, here and here; on Twitter here and here; and here on Reddit with a similar claim.

The photo has been shared in a misleading context; it was taken in July 2019 - well before the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire crisis began - and the koalas were not rescued from fires.

A reverse image search on Google found an identical image published here, on an Instagram account belonging to Australian Reptile Park zookeeper Dan Rumsey, on October 11, 2019.

Although the reptile park is located in New South Wales, one of the states most affected by the bushfires, it was not damaged by any fires, Rumsey told AFP.

Below is the Australian Reptile Park post:


The ultimate hug from mum ?? @timswildlife

A post shared by

Dan Rumsey


(@zookeeper_dan) on

A spokesperson for the Australian Reptile Park told AFP the photo was taken in July 2019, some two months before the bushfires broke out in Australia.

Another photo on the Australian Reptile Park’s Instagram page, published here on July 8, 2019, features the same two koalas in a different position.

Below is the Australian Reptile Park post:

The Australian Reptile Park spokesperson said that both koalas are residents of the zoo, and neither were rescued from bushfires. The spokesperson added that the baby koala shown in the image is one of seven who were born in the park in 2019.

The misleading image was also featured in Facebook posts written in Portuguese and Spanish.

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