FACT CHECK: Did Animals Escape New Jersey's Turtle Back Zoo During Hurricane Ida?

The image of the lion walking across a street at night is actually an old photo taken in Gujarat city near Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, India, in 2019

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Following the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, which saw dozens dying, a video has been doing the rounds on social media, with many claiming that wild animals at the Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey escaped during the deadly storm. However, that claim is absolutely false as despite the havoc wreaked by Ida on September 1, no animals escaped from the zoo during the storm.

The photos and the video being circulated are quite old and nowhere related to the Turtle Back Zoo. However, many social media users still believe that some wild animals including lions escaped from the zoo and are yet to be recaptured and sent back to their cages.

Animals on the Run

Lion on street
The photo of the lion being falsely claimed to have escaped from the New Jersey zoo Twitter

Hours after Hurricane Ida made landfall on September 1, a set of photos and videos started getting circulated on social media claiming that several animals including lions and tigers escaped from the Turtle Back Zoo. In one of the photos a lion is seen walking across a road during a rainy night.

Another screenshot claimed to show a CNN tweet warning people that animals have escaped from the New Jersey zoo along with the image of the lion roaming carefree on the street. Another social media user sharing the image of the lion on Facebook wrote: "There's damn tigers and penguins on the loose! IN South ORANGE! Turtle Back Zoo animals escaped lol".

Naturally, the photograph and videos were enough to scare people. However, truth is that nothing of that sort happened, with the zoo authorities clarifying everything about the safety of both the animals and the people of New Jersey.

Old Photo, New Claim

Following the hoax, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo released a statement clarifying that no animals had escaped. "The social media message stating that animals have left Essex County Turtle Back Zoo is unequivocally false. Turtle Back is an accredited facility that takes the care and welfare of our animals very seriously," he said in a statement.

In fact, the all the animal care team secured all the animals indoors and the staff remained on grounds to monitor the situation anticipating that Hurricane Ida would wreak havoc.

Also, the Turtle Back Zoo authority wrote a Facebook assuring that all the animals were safe during the hurricane, saying: "We appreciate everyone's concern about our animals and staff during the storm. The outpouring of concern for our well being is wonderful. Our Animal care team prepared ahead of last night's storm by securing animals indoors."

The image of the lion walking across a street at night is actually an old photo taken in Gujarat city near Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, India, in 2019 and was published in numerous sites at that time.

The same clip of lions has been used as a hoax on previous occasions also. Earlier in 2020, many social media users falsely claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin released lions into the streets to keep people indoors because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Related topics : Fake news