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Viral photo of impala and cheetah didn’t lead photographer to depression 

A photo shared over 1,600 times on Facebook shows an impala antelope looking straight into the camera while three cheetahs bite at its neck. The antelope looks calm. 

“This photo won the award for best photo of the decade and led the photographer into depression,” the caption reads. It goes on to claim that the “mother deer… offered herself to cheetahs so her young ones could… run to safety”. 

But is this really the photo’s story? Did the photographer fall into depression? We checked.

The real story

A reverse image search reveals that the photo and others of the same scene were snapped by wildlife photographer Alison Buttigieg

On her website, Buttigieg describes the photos. 

“I witnessed this cheetah kill in September 2013 in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Narasha, the cheetah mom, was teaching her youngsters how to kill prey. However they were a bit slow on the uptake and they were playing with the hapless impala prey instead of killing it. Narasha... is grabbing the impala by the neck in all the photos. The youngsters practise some skills like pouncing and tripping which they get right, but they cannot seem to be able to get how to strangle the impala effectively.”

This debunks the claim that the mother impala sacrificed herself for her offspring. (And it’s an antelope, not a deer. The main differences between antelope and deer are described here.) 

‘Award-winning’ the only true part of the story

On 18 November 2016, Buttigieg announced that the photo, which she calls The Stranglehold, received a “Remarkable Award in the Siena International Photo Awards”. But it was not named “the best photo of the decade”. 

After the photo was shared widely, a clearly annoyed Buttigieg responded to the made-up story on her Facebook timeline. She called it “a completely ridiculous fake story” and “complete fiction”, including the claim that it led her into a depression. 

Buttigieg added that sharing the photo was a “gross copyright violation” and directed people to her website for the “real story”. – Grace Gichuhi 


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