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No, viral photos don’t show antelope shoes worn by bandits in Kenya

IN SHORT: A recent flare-up of violent banditry in Kenya’s northern Rift Valley region, and the security forces’ response, has prompted several false claims on social media. One is that officers found shoes with hooves nailed to their soles, which the bandits used to prevent being tracked. But the shoes were made by poachers in South Africa.

Two photos circulating on Facebook in February 2023 show a pair of shoes with antelope hooves nailed to their soles. In one of the photos, the shoes are being held by an armed person in a camouflage uniform.

They are being posted with the claim that the shoes were used by bandits in Kenya.

“The police officers have recovered the kind of shoe attire which the bandits are using to avoid being traced. These guys are more intelligent!” one caption reads. The idea is that the shoes would leave animal – not human – tracks in the ground.

Communities in Kenya’s northern Rift Valley region – including the Pokot, Turkana, Marakwet, Tugen, Ilchamus and Samburu – have long been entangled in armed cattle-raiding and other violence.

On 10 February, armed men killed civilians and police officers on the Kitale-Lodwar highway in the Rift Valley’s Turkana county.

In response, the government declared some parts of six Rift Valley counties – Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia and Samburu – as “disturbed” and “dangerous”. It then launched a police and military operation against bandits and cattle rustlers in the region.

The photos have been posted with the claim here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But do they really show shoes used by cattle rustlers and bandits in Kenya? We checked.


Photos from Kruger Park in South Africa

A reverse image search of one of the photos reveals they went viral in Nigeria in 2021. They were debunked by Dubawa, a fact-checking organisation in the country.

According to Dubawa, the photos were first posted by a conservationist on Twitter on 3 July with the caption: “Shoes worn by poachers that were caught yesterday in the Kruger.” Kruger National Park is in northeastern South Africa. 

The tweet has since been deleted, but a screenshot posted three days later by another organisation advocating for wildlife conservation is still online.

One of the photos was also posted in the same year by Speak Out For Animals, an organisation that aims to protect African wildlife. 

Part of its caption reads: “The picture below showcases how a poacher uses the hooves of antelope to deter Rangers from tracking them.”

The photos do not show shoes modified by bandits and cattle rustlers in Kenya.

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