Sunday, September 25

Fact Check-Viral video does not show crocodiles ‘invading’ a beach in Brazil, contrary to claims online


A video showing a riverbank full of caimans in the Pantanal region of Brazil has been misrepresented in viral social media posts, with users falsely claiming the clip shows crocodiles crowding a beach in the South American country, leading to panic among locals.

A tweet from a verified user that garnered at least 38,100 retweets as of the writing of this article, reads: “In Brazil, an invasion of crocodiles that have flooded one of the beaches with several hundred, even thousands, and the local population is panicking.” (here)

“Are the animals worried about something? A #volcano or an #earthquake is preparing?,” reads part of another tweet spreading the misleading claim (here).

Posts with this claim can also be found on Instagram (here) (here) and TikTok (a mirrored and cropped version of the clip, where the narration has been replaced by music) (here).

Reuters could not independently source the origin of the video, but it dates back to at least Aug. 25, when it was posted by the Instagram account of “Pantanal Pesca” a company that sells fishing equipment (here). Nothing in the caption of the post refers to an “invasion” or “panicking” locals.

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Pantanal Pesca did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The person narrating the clip in Portuguese identifies the animals as caimans – not crocodiles — and says it was recorded along the Nabileque river, in the interior state of Mato Grosso do Sul in southern Brazil (bit.ly/3Rd5NzH).

The Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, spreads across three countries in South America: Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay and concentrates around 10 million caimans, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (here). It experiences seasonal flooding and drying periods (here).

Experts said the scene resembles caiman activity in the Pantanal region.

Drew Davis, an associate research scientist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, told Reuters the video likely shows Yacare Caimans — a species found in the Pantanal (here) (bit.ly/3r3jero) — and dismissed the idea that the clustering seen in the clip is something “uncommon.”

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“These caimans are not ‘invading’ anywhere,” he said. “With less water across the landscape (the Pantanal), individuals congregate in what water remains, resulting in high densities like that shown in the video.”

Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida, similarly said the scene seems to show caimans aggregating in available water during a dry season – and that they can reach extreme densities in dryer conditions.

“In the Pantanal, which is seasonally-flooded wetland, caimans are known to reach very high densities in available water (rivers and ponds) as surrounding wetlands dry up. This looks to me like the bank of a river exposed by very low flow,” Mazzotti said. “Pretty cool to see it but nothing surprising.”

A Brazilian outlet specialized in nature and wildlife, ((o))eco, also addressed the false claims about the video (here). Zilca Campos, a researcher at the Pantanal unit of state-run agricultural research agency Embrapa, told ((o))eco that scenes like the one shown in the video occur more frequently in the Pantanal region since 2019 – due to worsening droughts, which Campos’ and other researchers have documented (here).

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A video from 2020 published by Brazilian outlet UOL shows a similar scene of yacare caiman also captured in Mato Grosso do Sul (here).

More information about the climate conditions in the Pantanal region can be found (here) (here) (here).

VERDICT

Miscaptioned. This clip does not show crocodiles “invading” a “beach” in Brazil. According to experts, the footage shows Yacare Caiman in the interior Pantanal region of Brazil, clustering near a river due to seasonal drought.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here . 





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