In 2013, a photographer clicked some photos of cheetahs devouring an impala. In 2017, the photos went viral, along with a fake story.
Why? Because internet.
Four years ago, wildlife photographer Alison Buttigieg captured a series of heart-gripping photographs of three cheetahs making a kill of their prey, a doe-eyed impala that seems to be abnormally calm about the situation. These incredible photos are suddenly all over the internet but sadly they’re accompanied with a story that is far, far removed from the truth.
This fake story claimed that the innocent impala had sacrificed her life so that her calves could escape. It obviously went viral with some reports even claiming that the photographer fell into depression after witnessing this heart-breaking moment of a mother’s self-sacrifice for her children.
Disappointed with what her photographs were made out to be, Alison took to Facebook to express her dismay:
A highlight of my photography career has turned into a nightmare. My Stranglehold photo went viral in a huge way with a…
She also narrated the real story behind these poignant yet powerful pictures on her blog.
Here’s the story in Alison’s own words:
“I witnessed this Cheetah kill in September 2013 in the Maasai 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 instead were playing with the hapless impala prey instead of killing it.”
“Narasha, the cheetah mom is the one that is grabbing the impala by the neck in all the photos. The youngsters practice 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.”
“What is out of the ordinary in this sequence of photos is how calm the impala is throughout its ordeal. It is probably in shock and thus paralyzed with fear.”
“It is disturbing how it seems to be posing in some photos, especially in the 6th one as if determined to stay beautiful and proud until its very end.”
“The defiance in its eyes are in stark contrast with its lack of interest in self-preservation.”
“This allowed me to get unique pictures of a kill that are seemingly choreographed in their grace.”
“I wanted the viewer to sympathize with the impala, and at the same time witness with me the disturbing nature of this unusual kill.”
“In the end, after what seemed like an interminable eternity (but it was just a few minutes), the cheetah mom put the impala out of its misery, and the cats got to enjoy a nice meal.”