DUBAI // There are no crocodiles in Dubai Creek. Nor are there any kangaroos in Business Bay nor lions in Media City.
Digitally altered images of all three scenarios were, however, made by artist Richard Allenby-Pratt for a photographic series entitled "Abandoned". The series is being exhibited at Al Serkal Avenue in Dubai.
The image of the crocodile was lifted yesterday, possibly from Allenby-Pratt's website, and circulated to local media by a practical joker claiming to be a British tourist, "Edward Jones".
He claimed he had photographed the animal while on holiday in Dubai. "My impression was that it was a crocodile, and my pictures appear to confirm this," his email read.
The photograph appeared in print in a local publication today, but online readers were quick to point out the picture had been faked.
"A Nile crocodile will not survive one day in our waters," said Dr Reza Khan, a wildlife and zoo expert at Dubai Municipality. "Half a million years ago there were crocodiles here, but these days Iran and UAE coastlines are not suitable waters for crocodiles."
Dr Khan added that the west of Odisha province in India is the closest crocodile habitat to the UAE. "They shouldn't publish these stories without any verification and cause total panic."
Allenby-Pratt said he was amused by the news at first, but has since become concerned it might cost him his exhibition.
"I got a text from a friend about it this morning and I went to check it out on my computer. I thought it was funny. I even posted a link to it on my Facebook page. But then it started going viral, so I wrote [to the paper] and told them this was a hoax.
"I was concerned that the authorities might be panicking and that there might be repercussions," he said. "I really hope someone doesn't decide that my pictures are a problem and I end up having to take the exhibition down."
Allenby-Pratt said he did not set up the stunt himself. "I have nothing to do with this. I don't even know who this Edward Jones is. I suspect he may have taken the picture from my website or even visited the exhibit and photographed the picture."
The idea for the "Abandoned" project was to juxtapose Dubai's rapid growth and prominence with economic and environmental sustainability. The earliest image in the project was taken in 2002 and the most recent just last year.
"This is about promoting sustainable economy rather than sustainable growth, which is kind of an oxymoron," he said.
"When I first exhibited this project I was a little concerned it might be badly received or misunderstood, but I've heard nothing but good responses to it. I really hope that there was no inconvenience or distress caused by this hoax."