These photos show a stuffed toy, not a real bat

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Four photos have been shared hundreds of thousands of times in multiple social media posts and blogs alongside a claim they show a real rare baby albino bat. The claim is misleading: the images actually show a stuffed toy.

The photos were published here on Facebook on May 23, 2021. The post has been shared more than 430 times.

A screenshot, taken on June 1, 2021, of the misleading post.

The photos show a woman holding what appears to be a small bat in her hand. 

The post’s traditional Chinese-language caption translates to English as: “A baby albino bat!’ 

Comments from some social media users on the posts indicated they believed the photos show a real bat. Some comments also misleadingly linked the purported animal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Why do the people in Mainland like to eat cute bats so much? The mainland is not a country,” one Facebook user commented.

Others simply wrote: “Covid-20”, “not worried about the white Covid?”

A selection of comments under the misleading Facebook post.

The photos were also published alongside a similar claim in Chinese, English, Korean, Thai and Spanish on Facebook here and here; on Twitter here and here; on Douyin here and here; on Chinese video-sharing website Bilibili here; on Reddit here; and on blogs here and here.

The claim, however, is misleading. 

A reverse image search on Google has found the same photos published here on Instagram on October 9, 2019.

They were shared by Anna Yastanna, an artist and seller of handmade wool toys based in the Siberian city of Omsk.

Screenshots, taken on June 2, 2021, of the Instagram posts.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photos in the misleading post (L) and the Instagram posts (R):

A screenshot comparison of the photos in the misleading post and the Instagram posts.

A listing for the stuffed toy can be seen here on Etsy, an online shopping website.

A screenshot, taken on June 2, 2021, of the listing of the plush bat toy on Etsy.

In response to the misleading posts, Yastanna told AFP: “This toy was made by me two years ago. It was an order.”

She previously shared images of her toy bat creations on her Facebook page here on August 7, 2020.

A screenshot, taken on June 2, 2021, of the process of the plush bat toy.

The misleading social media posts were also debunked by online myth-busting site HoaxEye here.