Has Russia Released Lions and Tigers to Limit Unnecessary Movement?

Claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has released 800 tigers and lions all over the country as a measure to keep people at home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have been shared multiple times on Twitter. The accompanying image of such claims is that of a lone lion on a street, at night.

Even British billionaire Lord Alan Sugar weighed in:

Similar messages have been circulating on WhatsApp as can be seen in this screengrab (see below):

Background

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, strict measures by different countries ranging from closed boarders to total lockdowns have been enforced to curb the spread of the virus.

On March 19th, Russia registered its first death of a patient infected with COVID-19. According to The Moscow Times, as of the 22nd of March, there have been 367 confirmed cases.

The figures given on the confirmed cases have been questioned as to whether the Russian Government is ‘covering up’ the reality on the ground. This is due to Russia’s huge population of 144 million and its long border with China, which was, until recently, the epicentre of the pandemic.

The Government of the Russian Federation has been giving updates on regulations and measures to take to prevent the spread of the virus. These include travel restrictions and self-quarantine.

Verification

An image search shows that the picture used in the claim appeared on the 15th of April 2016 in reports by the New York Post , Daily Mail and Caters News.

The lion, named Columbus, was spotted on the streets of Braamfontein in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was being used in the production of a local film.

The images caused such a stir online that the #BraamLion became a trend on twitter.

There are no official reports from Russia on such an extreme measure being taken by President Putin.

Verdict

The claim that President Putin has released 800 lions and tigers to keep people at home is FALSE.

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Peris Gachahi

Peris Gachahi is a reporter at Africa Uncensored.She is passionate about human interest stories told through in-depth documentaries, data stories and digital storytelling.