This amazing photo of an Amazon snake cat with the face of a feline* and neon yellow-and-dark blue scale-like fur has been shared millions of times online.
It has been popping up in feeds for months now after a post from Russian Facebook user Alex Vasilev stated the Sperens Catus is the “rarest species of feline on Earth”.
“These animals live in hard-to-reach regions of the Amazon rainforest, and therefore they are relatively poorly studied,” Mr Vasilev wrote.
“The first images capturing the snake cat appeared only in 2020. Weighs up to 4 stone (25kg). The animal is virtually untamed*, although some Amazonian tribes use snake cats to protect their homes from rodents*,” the online post said.
The image went viral* across Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. But is it real?
The colour and patterns in the photo bear a strong resemblance to the poisonous snake commonly referred to as the “gold-ringed cat snake” or mangrove snake.
According to the respected Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in the US, the gold-ringed cat snake is found in the same countries where the Amazon snake cat was rumoured to be from — Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.
However, commentators online had serious doubts about the snake cat and its photo.
“Obvious fake. No known gene can produce natural hair or fur of those (navy and bright yellow) colours,” one commenter said.
“Really rough attempt at a fake Latin name,” a second person chimed in.
And it turns out the commentators were right. Mr Vasilev has since admitted the image was generated with artificial intelligence*.
IMAGES THAT MADE US LOOK TWICE
Queensland University of Technology says more than 3.2 billion images and 720,000 hours of video are shared online each day. Many of these are not authentic*.
Take this picture of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket that was released earlier this year.
The image – created through AI program Midjourney – had many viewers fooled into believing the head of the Catholic Church had dramatically updated his style.
And the below Fried Rice Wave meme went viral and inspired people around the world to try it before they realised it’s a sculpture in a Tokyo shop and the image is AI generated.
As AI improves, we can expect to see more and more fake images surface. And they don’t disappear — they remain online and are continuously spread by people thinking they’re real.
So, how can you train yourself to know what’s genuine or a trick?
HOW TO SPOT A FAKE IMAGE
Become a digital detective with these steps:
- Check the source: Look for where the photo came from. If it’s from a well-known and respected organisation or a known photographer, it’s more likely to be authentic.
- Look for inconsistencies: Zoom in and check for elements that look fake, such as mismatched shadows, unnatural lighting, blurred backgrounds or faces, or features such as hands on people that don’t look real or even extra limbs that don’t make sense.
- Check the metadata: Most digital photos contain metadata that includes information such as the date, time, and location of the photo. Check this to see if it matches the setting and story behind the photo.
- Use Reverse Image Search: Use Google Images, Bing, or Yahoo! to see if the photo has been used elsewhere on the internet. If it has been used in multiple settings, it may be fake.
- Ask an expert: Check with a professional photographer or journalist or someone who is good with computers if you are still unsure about an image’s authenticity.
- feline: relating to cats
- untamed: wild and not trained
- rodents: includes rats and mice
- viral: spreading quickly on the internet
- artificial intelligence: the ability of a computer or a robot controlled by a computer to do tasks that are usually done by humans
- authentic: real or genuine
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1. What reasons did Alex Vasilev give for why the snake cat had rarely been seen?
2. Which animal does the snake cat bear a striking resemblance to?
3. How many images and hours of video are shared online each day?
4. Name the famous person in an AI generated puffer jacket.
5. List three ways you can check if an image is fake.
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1. Create a Fake Animal
Create a design or image of a new animal. Use features of an existing animal or animals, then make changes that look real. Give your new animal a name, write a description of its habits, habitat and any other information that would make it as ‘realistic’ as possible.
Time: allow at least 30 minutes for this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Science.
Why is it important to know the difference between a fake image and a real one? Write down as many reasons as you can think of.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Information Technologies, Personal and Social Capability.
1. To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.
- What is the main topic or idea?
- What is an important or interesting fact?
Who was involved (people or places)?
Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific, and well punctuated.