30 September 2023

Misleading: Image of peacocks wrapped in cardboard has nothing to do with COVID-19 test

This photo was posted in March 2019, months before the pandemic began, when the birds were brought to the Yunnan Arts University in China.

A photo showing many peacocks tied and wrapped in cardboard was shared on Twitter in early November with a claim that the birds are subjected to PCR tests for COVID-19.

The tweet with this image has close to 400 retweets and over 1,000 likes at the time of writing, and many users seem to have believed the claim, assuming from their comments.

The Epoch Times published a news article about the photo with the same claim as well.

However, the claim is false, and the image was misleadingly used.

This picture shows peacocks brought to the Yunnan Arts University in China in March 2019, months before the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in December of that year.

Through reverse image search and keyword search, Annie Lab found a Weibo post with an identical picture posted on March 13, 2019.

This image shows a comparison between two identical pictures with peacocks wrapped in the bags.
The image on Twitter (left) is identical to the image on Weibo (right)

We also found other Weibo posts (here and here) with similar photos of peacocks wrapped in cardboard.

On Weibo, many pictures of peacocks can be found with the hashtag #学校养孔雀# (keeping peacocks at school) and, according to a post by the Yunnan Arts University on March 13, 2019, the school has peacocks and other birds such as African geese and black swans on campus.

It is about the Yunnan Arts University's Weibo post.
Yunnan Arts University’s Weibo post on March 13, 2019

An article published by the university’s campus newspaper reported the school received 30 peacocks. It also said Peacocks are an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.

The article also mentioned that peacocks have a special place at the university because an alumnus, Yuan Xiaocen, is considered a pioneer of contemporary freehand peacock paintings.

According to Daily Mail, peacocks are usually wrapped in plastic bags or pieces of cardboard in this way when they are transported, in order to prevent their feathers from falling off.

Although there have been news reports about animals being tested for COVID-19 in China (for example, these reports from BBC and CNN), this particular image has nothing to do with the pandemic.