FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show A Mother Deer Sacrificing Herself For Her Offspring?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook allegedly shows a female deer giving herself over to cheetahs to save her offspring from them.

Verdict: False

The photographer who took the picture has called the viral story “complete fiction” and refuted that it caused her to suffer depression. It shows a mother cheetah and her cubs just before the mother cheetah killed an impala.

Fact Check:

Featured in the photo is an impala surrounded by three cheetahs, one of which appears to be biting the impala’s neck. A cheetah’s diet consists of impalas and other game animals, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

“This photo won the award for best photo of the decade and led the photographer into depression,” alleges the post’s caption. “The cheetahs chased a mother deer and her two fawns (baby deer). The mother could have easily out run cheetahs but instead she offered herself to cheetahs so her young ones could manage to run to safety. In this picture she is seen looking at her babies running safely as she is about to be torn to pieces….”

The photo is part of a series taken in Kenya in September 2013 by Finland-based photographer Alison Buttigieg and can be seen on her photography website. In a 2013 Facebook post, Buttigieg refuted the viral story being circulated online about her photo, calling it “complete fiction.”

“My Stranglehold photo went viral with a completely ridiculous fake story accompanying it, and implications I fell into depression after I took it (seriously who comes up with this crap?!?) – not to mention the gross copyright violations,” she wrote in the Facebook post, in part. “Sensationalism at its best – complete fiction so that people get more likes on their page.” (RELATED: Did Animals Escape From A New Jersey Zoo When Remnants Of Hurricane Ida Passed Through?)

Buttigieg wrote on her website that the cheetah holding the impala’s neck in the photo was the other cats’ mother and that it was teaching them how to kill prey at the time. The photographer wrote that the impala was “probably in shock and thus paralysed with fear,” not mentioning anything about it sacrificing itself for its offspring. The mother cheetah ended up killing the impala seen in the photo, according to Buttigieg’s website.

The photo, titled “The Stranglehold,” was honored as a “Remarkable Artwork” in 2016 by the Siena International Photo Awards.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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