Fact check: Image of human-elephant hybrid is art, doesn’t show real baby

The claim: A Norwegian woman gave birth to a human-elephant hybrid

Researchers in the United States and China announced in April that they had successfully injected human cells into a monkey embryo for the first time. These chimeras, organisms that have multiple sets of DNA, are created with the goal of growing human organs for transplants, studying human illnesses or testing new drugs.

Some Facebook users say these experiments are more prevalent than people think.

“Human-Animal hybrid experiments are taking place away from the media spotlight,” one user wrote in a June 12 Facebook post. “This Human-Elephant hybrid was recently born to a woman in Norway.”

The post is accompanied by a picture of an infant with an elongated nose, no fingers or toes, and ginger hair.

The original claim that the image shows a genetically modified child comes from a 2015 article posted on Huzlers, a site that describes itself as a “satirical and fictional entertainment blog.” The image in the Facebook posts shows a sculpture that is more than a decade old.

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the image for comment.

Picture shows 2010 sculpture

The image in the Facebook post does not show a real baby. It comes from a decade-old art exhibition.

The sculpture, called “Newborn,” was included in a 2010 exhibit by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. It is made from “silicone, fiberglass, human hair and feral New Zealand possum pelt,” according to Piccinini’s site.

The sculpture was part of the display “Beyond our Kin,” exhibited from Nov. 11 through Dec. 4, 2010, at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, Australia.

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“I am fascinated by the narrative and ethical repercussions ensuing from our increasingly sophisticated understanding of and interventions into the structure of life,” Piccinini said about the exhibition.

Similar works by Piccinini include “The Student,” “Kindred” and “Prone.”

USA TODAY reached out to Piccinini for comment.

Our rating: False

The claim that a human-elephant hybrid was born in Norway is FALSE, based on our research. The image in the Facebook post shows a sculpture from an Australian artist. The sculpture is called “Newborn” and was exhibited in late 2010.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Facebook post, June 12
  • Wall Street Journal, April 26, Creation of First Human-Monkey Embryos Sparks Concern
  • Patricia Piccinini, accessed June 14, Exhibitions
  • Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, accessed June 15, Patricia Piccinini: Beyond our Kin, 2010
  • Scientific American, Aug. 8, 2016, 3 Human Chimeras That Already Exist
  • Huzlers, 2015, A Norwegian Woman Gives Birth To Baby Elephant! (archived)

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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