Stories about mermaid sightings date back nearly 7,000 years. While seafaring captains may have mistaken manatees (or even whale penises) for all manner of mythical sea beasts, the legend of the mermaid continued into the modern age thanks to digital image editing, bad science "documentaries," art sculptures, and misidentified animal skeletons.
In April 2022, a new "mermaid sighting" made waves on social media as users shared a video that supposedly showed one of these mythical creatures that had washed up onto a beach in Kenya. (In other postings of the video, people claimed that this video was actually taken on the shores of South Africa.)
Officials in both Kenya and South Africa have said that there have not been any reports of a mermaid found on the beach.
Reports indicating that a mermaid has been spotted in Kwale are fake, police say pic.twitter.com/H6RVpxrd45
— NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) April 7, 2022
The earliest version of this video that we could find was posted on TikTok on April 6 along with the claim that a "real mermaid" had been "caught in Muizenberg, South Africa." That video has been viewed more than 8 million times.
We reached out to the South African Police Service in Muizenberg for more information about this video. As many social media commentators wondered if this video actually showed something else -- for example, a child who had been attacked by a fish -- we also asked Muizenberg SAPS if there had been any reports of a child who died (or nearly died) from a fish attack.
A spokesperson said: "Please note that Muizenberg SAPS has no reports of a mermaid that was washed by the beach nor reports of a child bitten by a fish."
While we have not been able to determine exactly what this video shows, it does not show a mermaid. 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. In fact, upon close examination of this footage, you can see that the sand loses texture as the "mermaid's" arms move across the beach. At one point, the fingers even disappear, indicating that the "mermaid's body" was digitally inserted into this footage:
As officials in both Kenya and South Africa have disputed this report, as there are visual signs that this footage has been edited, and as there have not been any news reports about the absolutely historic and momentous discovery of a half-man half-fish mermaid species in Africa, we are rating this footage as "Miscaptioned."