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HomeFact CheckOrangutan Offered Helping Hand To Geologist Who Fell In Puddle? No, Viral...

Orangutan Offered Helping Hand To Geologist Who Fell In Puddle? No, Viral Claim Is Missing Context

A photograph featuring an orangutan who appears to offer help by extending his arm to a man who appears to be stuck waist-deep in a swamp is going viral on social media platforms. Those sharing the post claim that the animal was trying to help a “geologist who had fallen in a puddle during his research”. Newschecker found the claim to be untrue.

Shared as ‘a photo that will remain immortal in history’, the image, credited to one Anil Prabhakar, is doing the rounds on Facebook with users calling it a ‘great gesture’ by the orangutan. One such post by user Jimmy Mathew garnered over 1.5k shares and 4.8 likes in about 24 hours.

Screengrab from Facebook search

Also Read: Elephant Attacks Father-Son Duo Over Attempt To Feed It Meat? No, Viral Claim Is Misleading

Fact Check/Verification

A simple keyword search for ‘orangutan geologist’ on Facebook led us to multiple posts featuring the viral photographs from 2021 and 2020, confirming that the image is not related to a recent incident, and is at least two years old. 

Newschecker further conducted Google reverse image search on the viral image with the keywords ‘orangutan helping man’ and found a report by CNN, dated February 7, 2020, with the title ‘This orangutan saw a man wading in snake-infested water and decided to offer a helping hand’, featuring the viral photograph.

Screengrab from Google search

The report confirms that the photograph was indeed taken by amateur photographer Anil Prabhakar.

Screengrab from CNN

We checked Prabhakar’s Instagram account and found the same photo posted on January 23, 2020 with the caption, “let me help you? : Once Humanity dying in Mankind, sometime animals are guiding us back to our basics.”

Instagram will load in the frontend.

According to the CNN report, Prabhakar was on a safari with friends at a conservation forest run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) when he witnessed the scene. He told CNN, “There was a report of snakes in that area so the warden came over and he’s clearing snakes (sic).” Prabhakar further says that’s when he saw an orangutan walking up to the warden and “offered him his hand.”

The report also quoted Prabhakar saying that it was difficult for the guard to move in the muddy, flowing water. “It seemed as if the orangutan was saying ‘May I help you?’ to the man”

“I just grabbed that moment. It was really emotional,” he added.  Following this, the guard reportedly moved away from the ape and climbed out of the water.

Thus, we understand that the man in the viral image is not a geologist or a researcher, but a staff employed in the BOSF.

Another report by Daily Mail quoted Prabhakar as saying, “Someone told him there was a snake in the river. The warden went there and cleared the bushes. An orangutan came to the banks and was watching what he was doing. He then came closer and gave his hand. The warden just moved away. I asked him why later and he said: “It’s a wild animal, not one we are familiar with”.

A report by The Jakarta Post, however, quoted BOSF CEO Jamartin Sihite, confirming the incident narrated by Prabhakar, but doesn’t endorse the theory of the animal lending a ‘helping hand’. Sihite said that the orangutan seen in the picture is Anih and the man in the viral image is an employee at the BOSF, Syahrul. Sihite said, “Anih and Syahrul have known each other since the 1990s. Syahrul was doing the maintenance in the picture.”

Orangutan offered helping hand to geologist?
Screengrab from The JP

Regarding the motive of the animal, he added, “based on our experience, she could have been asking for food from Syahrul. It shows that the orangutan has become dependent on human beings,” even though in the picture it looked like  Anih was offering help to Syahrul.

BOSF also posted a video on Instagram explaining the story behind the viral photograph.

Instagram will load in the frontend.

Conclusion

The viral claim that an orangutan offered a “helping hand” to a “geologist who fell in a puddle” is untrue. The image features an employee at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) engaged in maintenance work.

Result: False Context/Missing Context

Sources

CNN

Daily Mail

The Jakarta Post

Instagram Account Of BOSF


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Vasudha Beri
Vasudha Beri
Vasudha noticed the growing problem of mis/disinformation online after studying New Media at ACJ in Chennai and became interested in separating facts from fiction. She is interested in learning how global issues affect individuals on a micro level. Before joining Newschecker’s English team, she was working with Latestly.
Vasudha Beri
Vasudha Beri
Vasudha noticed the growing problem of mis/disinformation online after studying New Media at ACJ in Chennai and became interested in separating facts from fiction. She is interested in learning how global issues affect individuals on a micro level. Before joining Newschecker’s English team, she was working with Latestly.

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