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Fake News: Donald Trump Jr. Did NOT Kill Biggest Elephant In Africa In 30 years

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Mon, 06 Aug 2018 22:16:37 Z)

Did Donald Trump Jr. kill the biggest elephant in Africa in 30 years? No, that's not true. The story was made up by a site pretending to be ABC News by conflating two older true news stories with each other to create a new one that wasn't real at all.

The story originated from an article published by abcnews-us.com (not abcnews.go.com, which is the real ABC News website) on August 6, 2018 titled "Donald Trump Jr. Kills Biggest Elephant In Africa In 30 years" (archived here) which opened:

Exclusive: Donald Trump Jr. paid nearly $100,000 to shoot one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe. While conservationists and safari guides mourn the loss of the 'magnificent' animal, Trump Jr. will import the ivory tusks into the US under the reversed trophy ban recently implemented by his father President Trump.

It is a story that will haunt conservationists: one of Africa's most majestic creatures has died at the hand of President Donald Trumps son, in the name of sport.

Donald Trump Jr. has risked the wrath of animal lovers once more by shooting dead one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe.

Mystery surrounded the identity of the elephant, which was estimated to have been between 40 and 60 years old, but had never been seen before in Zimbabwe's southern Gonarezhou National Park. But its tusks, which touch the ground in a photograph taken moments after its shooting, confirmed its exceptional nature, weighing an estimated 120lb each.

Screenshot of http://www.abcnews-us.com/2018/08/06/donald-trump-jr-kills-biggest-elephant-in-africa-in-30-years/

A large part of the article and the photo of the tusk was lifted from this 2015 story from the Telegraph:

Biggest elephant killed in Africa for almost 30 years brings back memories of Cecil the lion

It was shot on October 8 in a private hunting concession bordering Gonarezhou by a hunter who paid $60,000 (£39,000) for a permit to land a large bull elephant and was accompanied by a local, experienced professional hunter celebrated by the hunting community for finding his clients large elephants.

Compare the opening of that article:

It is an image that will haunt conservationists: one of Africa's most majestic creatures lying dead on the ground as a white Western hunter poses proudly by its side.

Barely three months after the shooting of Cecil the lion caused global outrage, a German hunter has risked the wrath of animal lovers once more by shooting dead one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe.

Mystery surrounded the identity of the elephant, which was estimated to have been between 40 and 60 years old, but had never been seen before in Zimbabwe's southern Gonarezhou National Park.

The photo used in the fake article actually is real and shows Trump Jr. with the tail of a dead elephant but it is from a 2011 hunting trip according to The Guardian:

Trump sons' hunting in focus as US lifts import ban on African elephant trophies

The Trump administration's decision to loosen restrictions around the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has turned attention back to the president's family's own connection to the controversial sport.

But is is not from the biggest elephant shot in Africa in 30 years and the ivory definitely wouldn't be allowed into the U.S. at the time the pictures were taken because Donald Trump wasn't even president at the time and the ban on importing elephant trophies was still in effect.

We wrote about abcnews-us.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

The site is closely related to the yahoonews-us.com site that ran a major viral death hoax about actor Michael J. Fox yesterday and which got blocked by Google's Safe Browsing Initiative today:

Fake News Site Pushing Michael J. Fox Death Hoax Marked As Unsafe By Google (Along With Lead Stories Debunk!) | Lead Stories

Yesterday Lead Stories reported on a death hoax involving actor Michael J. Fox which was published by a site pretending to be Yahoo! News: Did actor Michael J. Fox die at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from complications related to Parkinson's disease? No, that's not true: the death hoax was reported by a fake news website masquerading as Yahoo!

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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