Footage claiming to show a "real mermaid" in South Africa went viral on TikTok on April 6.
The video was reuploaded on YouTube, where people said the sighting actually occurred in Kenya.
Local authorities have spoken out, labeling the video "fake."
Various clips claiming to show a "real mermaid" on a beach have gone viral across TikTok and YouTube, causing widespread speculation about how the footage came to be, and leading local authorities to debunk the claims.
On April 6, a user called Aamir Cali uploaded a TikTok captioned "Real Mermaid Caught in Muizenberg South Africa." The clip shows a group of people crowding around a human-like figure with a long moving tail attached to its lower body.
It went viral with 9.6 million views and is one of several on the user's account that claim to show a "real mermaid" caught on film. The user did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Video: This mermaid performs all over the world
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is no evidence that mermaids — known in mythology as creatures that are half-human and half-fish — have ever lived on the earth.
The majority of comments under the video expressed skepticism, with viewers confused by what the footage depicted. Some speculated the tail-like object in the clip is actually a large fish that has partially swallowed the child. Several comments also said the tail-like object may be attached to a "set of strings" that could be pulled to make it move.
Dan Evon wrote for fact-checking website Snopes that, "In all likelihood, this video is a digitally altered composite featuring genuine footage of a dying fish and digitally added images of a child or doll."
British television news outlet ITV News also analyzed the video in an April 14 report broadcast exclusively on Instagram and YouTube, concluding that, "With no solid scientific evidence of mermaids even existing, and this video's authenticity being disputed, it's pretty unlikely that this is actually a mermaid."
Videos of the so-called "mermaid" spread across social media, leading authorities to publicly debunk the claims
On April 7, additional footage of what appeared to be the same scene resurfaced on several YouTube and TikTok accounts, but this time, captions under the videos said it was filmed in Ukanda, which is a town in Kenya. These videos have millions of combined views.
The account owners who uploaded these clips have not made any subsequent videos or responded to any comments to clarify whether they own the footage. Insider was unable to independently verify where the videos were filmed, and none of the account holders immediately replied to Insider's request for comment.
According to local Kenyan news channel NTV News, the Coast Regional Commissioner and Kwale County Commander in Kenya have dismissed the videos "as lies," and said, "Reports of an alleged mermaid spotted in Ukanda that are circulating on social media are fake." Police in Ukanda and the Kwale County Commander did not immediately respond to Insider's request for additional comment.
—NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) April 7, 2022
A spokesperson from the Muizenberg South African Police Service told Snopes, "Please note that Muizenberg SAPS has no reports of a mermaid that was washed up by the beach" and added they have not received any reports of a "child bitten by a fish" in recent months. Muizenberg SAP did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Reported sightings of mermaids have persisted throughout history, and the mythical creatures are a source of fascination within popular culture, featuring frequently in movies and TV shows. In 2012, a fictional documentary-style program titled "Mermaids: The Body Found" drew criticism after it was broadcast on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, leading some viewers to believe it was real, as reported by Insider at the time.
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