Truth behind viral Australian bushfire 'photo' of girl with gas mask and koala revealed

Will Taylor
News Reporter
A genuine photo of a firefighter managing a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

A striking viral image of a girl wearing a gas mask and holding a koala as an Australian bushfire rages behind her is actually a work of art.

The image, created by artist Thuie, has been shared tens of thousands of times on Instagram and Facebook in posts that claim it is real.

But the artist has confirmed to Agence France-Presse that it is not a real photo, and was actually edited mostly from a photo of her daughter standing in water.

“My work was intended to represent what we are going through right now, the fires, the people affected by these fires and the masks that those who live in endangered areas must wear, and the fact that animals are as affected as humans,” the artist told AFP.

Thuie has used the image’s caption to clarify it is a Photoshop edit and urged for donations to organisations that are helping alleviate the disaster.

It is not the only mischaracterised image of the Australian bushfires that has gone viral.

AFP also found a widely shared photo of a burning tiger that was actually taken in Indonesia in 2012.


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An image of Australia with bright orange spots where the fires are burning also went viral, with many on social media claiming it is a satellite photo.

Anthony Hearsey, who made the image, clarified: “Didn’t realise this would go viral ... This is a 3D visualisation of the fires in Australia. NOT A PHOTO. Think of this as a prettier looking graph.”

Mischaracterised images are not the only problem with social media commentary on the bushfires.

Accounts including online bots have spread conspiracy theories suggesting environmentalists have been lighting fires to convince people on the need for action on climate change.

There is no evidence to show this is true.