A viral video making the rounds appears to show a group of penguins living on an island of plastic. But while it’s now been revealed as a hoax, it has a broader aim of trying to make a meaningful point.
The video was originally posted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on April 1 this year which, hint hint, is April Fools’ Day. The original post on Facebook, however, purported it as real. Because, you know, that’s how April Fools’ Day works.
“These shots are shocking!” the WWF wrote. “Researchers recorded these disturbing images in the South Pacific: dozens of Gentoo penguins have settled on an island of plastic waste.”
Well, surprise surprise, an article from Snopes this week has confirmed this was a digitally manipulated video. The goal was to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean, with an estimated 135 million tonnes (150 million tons) of plastic currently polluting the world’s oceans.
“Fortunately, our discovery of penguins on the island made of plastic waste is not genuine,” the WWF said on its website. “But we live in a world where such hazards from plastic pollution could very quickly become real, so there's no merry April punchline, but a serious background.”
They noted that 7.2 million tonnes (8 million tons) of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year, and by 2050 it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in our seas than fish. “Plastic stifles our seas and we need to act urgently before stories that sound impossible become possible,” they said.
And we can readily see the impact of this. Earlier this year, a stranded pilot whale in Thailand died, and was found to have more than 80 plastic bags in its stomach. The mass of plastic was so large that it prevented the whale from eating anything, and it starved to death.
Efforts have been made in recent times to try and lessen the impact of plastic, with places like the UK introducing restrictions on single-use plastic bags. There is still more work to be done though, which this video succinctly highlights, even if it did so through a slightly odd computer-generated video.