A Galapagos tortoise at the Australian Reptile Park (file image)
This is a Galapagos tortoise at the Australian Reptile Park - not a mountain nor a tree. (AAP IMAGES/PR HANDOUT)

Truth has a mountain to climb to expose fake turtle’s head pic

AAP FactCheck January 31, 2022

A viral image shows a mountain shaped like a turtle's head in Cambodia.


False. The image is fabricated, combining stock images which have been manipulated.

It’s a striking image, but a viral meme claiming to show a mountain in Cambodia that looks like a turtle’s head is playing a shell game with the truth.

The image, shared several times online, appears to be a mountain that resembles a turtle. However, it is a manipulated image assembled from existing photos.

The rocky outcrop pictured is Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, as seen in a similar image uploaded to Wikipedia in 2006. It has been combined with part of a 2015 image from Glacier National Park in Montana of Wild Goose Island from the park’s Flickr account. Close examination of trees in the foreground of the ‘turtle’ image show they match those from the Glacier National Park image, including a crooked sparse tree in the centre. The eyes, nose and mouth of the ‘turtle’ appear to have been superimposed or photoshopped into the image.

The photo was posted on January 26 in a gardening humour group with almost 90,000 members – in which the caption inaccurately labels the mountain a ‘tree’. The image was shared on social media several times in 2021 (see here and here) and can be found in memes dating back to at least January 2019 (see here and here).

The meme’s image is of low resolution quality, which tends to blur details such as the way the sides of the mountain rock appear hazy, or the ‘nostrils’ of the turtle seem smudged. “A low-resolution image file can help hide the signs of a faked photo,” tech news website Digital Trends explains in an article on image manipulation.

The Facebook post uploaded on January 26
 The low resolution of the viral image is one of the tell-tale signs that it has been manipulated. 

There are some mountains that resemble turtles such as Macheng Tortoise Mountain in China, but not to the extent as shown in the meme.

The “Turtle mountain” photo has been debunked by Snopes and also featured on a list of fake viral images. In 2019 AAP FactCheck examined a digitally altered picture of two trees appearing to kiss.

The Verdict

The Facebook post claiming to show a mountain in Cambodia which looks like a turtle’s head is fake. The image is a digitally altered composite of two photographs from American parks.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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