How fake animal rescue videos have become a new frontier for animal abuse

Mark Auliya has no problem with snakes attacking other animals. Carnivores need to eat, after all. But last month, staring at a YouTube video in his home office in Bonn, Germany, the reptile expert threw his glasses down in disgust. “This is something really nasty,” he said.

On Auliya’s screen, a Burmese python, a constrictor that normally kills birds and small mammals, was locked onto a gibbon. The panicked primate was fighting for its life as the snake, coiled around its torso, began squeezing. Soon, the gibbon stopped moving. A man in a blue soccer jersey and jeans appears. Hurriedly, he uncoils the python, freeing the gibbon, and carries the snake offscreen. The traumatized gibbon cowers, covering its head.

“It’s so obvious this is fake, but people believe it,” says Auliya, a herpetologist at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig. The video seemed to suggest that the rescuer had arrived

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