An image shows a massive snake held up by an excavation machine. Is the photo real or fake?
The photo appears to be the result of forced perspective.
Forced perspective in this case means that the snake is closer to the camera than the vehicle behind it, creating the illusion that the creature is very large.
We were able to find the image posted on a forum back on October 31, 2012. The person who posted it claimed that the snake was 30 meters long and said the photo was snapped in Indonesia by a “friend who works in Kalimantan and according to him was caught a few days ago, as the head of the snake exposed to heavy equipment is still alive but dying.”
This Indonesian news story from late November 2012 discusses the image which at that time had been circulating for about a month. The article states that the photo had been shared heavily via cell phone messaging and that the snake was estimated to be “dozens of meters” in size. It was stated that the snake was found in a tree trunk by workers in the village of Belinyu City. The article also states that the snake was killed and buried at the site.
As the image has been passed around, there have been a variety of captions and sizes attributed to the creature in the photo, from 14 to 30 meters (46-98 feet). According to Guinness World Records, the largest snake currently in captivity is 25 feet, 2 inches, and weighs 350 pounds.
The same image has been used in stories which claim the snake was found in other areas. A May 2013 social media post, for example, shared the photo with a caption, “Supposedly this Anaconda was found recently during the excavation of the new Panama Canal.” Another variation spotted in June 2013 claimed that it was a 700-pound snake found in North Carolina:
Explains any missing persons reports in the area
A December 2012 news story used the photo in a story regarding snakes found by excavators in Indonesia. Because the original image had been posted 6 weeks earlier, it’s likely that this shot was used in lieu of an actual photo from that event.
In 2014, the photo was seen in circulation accompanying a fake story by News-hound.co claiming that a 780 pound snake was found in Florida. This work of fiction writes:
Locals claim to have captured a python that is almost 49 feet long and weighs nearly 780 pounds, a local official said.
From our best estimate, this snake was found in Indonesia in late 2012. While it does appear to be a large snake, its proximity to the camera makes it appear much larger than even the largest snakes in the world. It is difficult to reconcile the unrealistic sizes attributed to this snake with the largest verified snakes in the world. The photo continues to circulate, with surges in interest appearing several times a year.
Updated July 19, 2015
Originally published June 2013