Some of the Most-Shared Images of the Amazon Rainforest Fires Are Old or Are Not Of the Amazon

Social media helped rise reporting of the wildfires, but it's also contributing to misrepresentation. There's no question that numerous parts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire, and humans are probable cause of the blazes.

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In Brazil alone, there are 80% more fires in 2019 than there were last year, according to the country's space research center. More than half of the fires in Brazil are in its Amazon area. Satellite imageries are helping reveal just how many fires there are, and how much of their smoke has spread across the country. But photos on social media are conflating the present crisis with previous fires.

One such photograph -- one of the most-shared photographs on social media -- displays a lush forest with an enormous wall of smoke rising from a fire. Musical artist and actor Jaden Smith shared the image on his Instagram, where it gathered over a million likes. YouTube celeb Logan Paul shared the image on Twitter, too.

Yes, the picture displays the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. But it's not of the recent fires. It's almost 30 years old: the Guardian, which republished the photo in 2007, says it was taken in June 1989. Entertainment websites like 9gag and UNILAD both are sharing the photo on their websites. Their social media posts conspicuously featuring the photo have tens of thousands of shares.

Another photo viral on social media claims to also display the Amazon rainforest on fire. Leonardo DiCaprio shared it on his Instagram and it has over 3 million likes. Even the Rainforest Trust, which is requesting people to donate to help halt deforestation, shared it on its Twitter account. But it's certainly not showing the present fires in the Amazon. CNN discovered it on a website published in 2018. Actor David Licauco shared four photos -- all of which are not of the present wildfires in the Amazon.

The two photos on the right are not even of an Amazon wildfire. The top image is from a 2018 wildfire in Sweden; the bottom is of a wildfire in Montana on August 6, 2000. The most distressing photos being shared are the burnt remains of animals, or animals trying to escape wildfires. Blogger Nathalie Muñoz shared a series of photos about the Amazon rainforest fires.

The photograph of the monkey crying, holding a younger monkey, is not in the Amazon. It was taken in Jabalpur, India, by Avinash Lodhi sometime in April 2016. And the photo of the scorched rabbit is from the 2018 wildfire in Malibu, California.