Published January 15, 2013
Did Google run over a donkey in Botswana?
That's certainly what its Google Street view cameras seem to suggest.
Twitter user @TheRealSheldonC tweeted a picture yesterday of a donkey -- presumably dead -- lying on the road in Botswana. The Google Maps image reveals a puff of dust flying up from the injured donkey, suggesting that the image must have captured the donkey as it was falling rather than just lying on the road.
Further evidence -- when you zoom past the donkey, you will find it standing by the road, uninjured.
Commentators claim it is possible that the Google Street View car ran over the donkey and the shot of it lying on the roadside was captured by the rear-facing camera.
Google sent News.com.au internal Street View images but did not give permission for them to be published. In the photos, the company allege that the Google Street View car approached the donkey which was already lying down, which then gets up and continues walking uninjured.
The problem with this version of events is that -- based on the images -- it appears as though the donkey is walking backwards.
The image -- captured from the front camera of the car -- featured the donkey lying down, in between two fairly prominent tire marks. The second image shows the donkey getting up. The third image shows the donkey standing off and to the left, meters behind where it fell. The fourth image shows the donkey even further back and to the left. Google claims the photos show the events in the order they occurred.
This version of events seems to make no earthly sense.
Firstly, there was considerable space between the spot where the donkey fell, and the spot it was seen standing in the second shot.
That donkey would have had to have leapt at considerable speed to go from lying in the middle of the road to standing to the very left of the frame in the second shot.
Also, when the donkey allegedly "got up," there was no dirt impression left in the middle of the road. Also missing were footprints.
And do donkeys usually just lie down in the middle of roads?
Roger Short, adjunct professor of zoology at Melbourne University told News.com.au emphatically that donkeys cannot walk backwards.
"Can you walk normally going backwards?," he said. "You might jog but you wouldn't run fast. Donkeys are not adapted to it. They can take a few steps but they would never normally walk backwards."
Unfortunately, Professor Short was unable to assess the validity of the photos.
A Google Street View spokesman denied that the donkey was injured.
"Our Street View teams take the safety of people and donkeys very seriously," the spokesperson said. "A review of our imagery confirms that we did not cause any harm to the donkey."
The consensus on Twitter is pretty one-sided.
User @handelaar101 wrote: "Google Street View is in Botswana now -- and apparently Google kill donkeys there too ... keep an eye out for the donkey."
"The evidence is fairly compelling RT @duncanrobinson: Question: did Google street view run over a donkey in Botswana?," wrote another user @tompeck.
Twitter user @209fifashirts wrote "Clearly! RT @atomicnumber3 Did Google street view run over a donkey in Botswana?"
"No, no, no. It's RESTING," tweeted @polygeek.
Poor little donkey. Hopefully he survived the fiasco and is grazing in the very best fields Botswana has to offer.
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