I've seen the below image circulating on Facebook:

Claim: Lions on the streets in Russia
(source: pressablecdn.com)

They are claiming lions are being used to keep Russians indoors during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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    To all the visitors from HNQ: Welcome to Skeptics! Your personal opinions are not welcome in the comments here, especially the ones sharing racist stereotypes. Comments are for clarification of the question only.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 3:36

3 Answers 3


No, they didn't

I remember the image (not the news headers) from a few years back when a film crew got into trouble for using a (tamed) lion in some filming in Johannesburg.

Here is the relevant snopes article backing this up.

In fact (at the time the post was circulating) Russia had hardly any restrictions in place, still planning to go ahead with their 75th anniversary V-Day parade

Edit To clear up confusion: Russia has now put restrictions in place (speech dated 25th of March).

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    Hi! A Saint-Petersburg citizen here. While it is true that there are no lions (seriously, how could one even believe in this?), I'm afraid your statement that "Russia has hardly any restrictions in place" is quite far from truth. Every company capable of remote work has been doing this for about two weeks already, while the next week will be an official all-country holiday so that everyone stays at home, only groceries & pharmacies allowed to stay open. All mass meetings have been prohibited for several weeks already as well.
    – lisyarus
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 7:29
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    @lisyarus After your comment I checked the Kremlin's site and found a speech earlier this week outlining restrictions and have added this to the comment. The claims in the BBC article have been left in as they highlight the thinking at one time. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 22:29

This meme template is from breakyourownnews.com. In hindsight it's easy to spot the artifacting in the upper right-hand corner where the memer photoshopped out the site's watermark.

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    There's also a lot of artifacting around the text in the white box.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 12:19
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    Its quite a recognisable layout, and crops up regularly in this kind of posting. Good spotting.
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 10:27
  • According to Google, "England alone has 13 leopards, three cheetahs, nine lions and nine tigers". So it is doubtful that Russia would have 500 lions that they could release.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 13:33

According to Caters News, the lion pictured goes by the name Columbus and was part of a film production in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Also, as these pictures reveal the two cars are actually parked in the middle of the street and the intersection appears to be heavily fenced.

enter image description here
Columbus, the lion, resting on the boot of a car

enter image description here Columbus, the lion, taking a stroll through the streets of Johannesburg

There's also this YouTube video about this lion and the description of the video reads:

April 13, 2016: Lion Park in Johannesburg is home to the popular lion Columbus. The lion made headlines after it was photographed in Braamfontein on the set of a film.

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