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Footage showing a man releasing 20 birds with their heads caught between fence posts has opened the floodgates to a number of online conspiracies about how they got there.
Added to TikTok by Cristea Florin five days ago, the video has been viewed more than 18 million times, but experts fear there could be a dark motive behind the post.
More than a dozen birds, believed to be black-billed magpies, languish with their heads on one side of the palings and their bodies on the other side.
Camera in hand, a man slowly lifts each bird to freedom.
“How did they get there?” is written cross the screen in Romanian.
Debate has been fierce on both TiTok and Reddit about how the birds were caught in the fence.
“I'm trying to figure out WTF happened,” said one person in a comment that summed up many internet users’ reactions.
Comments on TikTok were generally kind, with many congratulating the user for saving the birds.
“They’re going to remember you helped,” says one of the top comments.
“Thank you for doing this. Somehow this was oddly satisfying to watch,” wrote another person.
Others thought the design of the fence could have played a role in the bird's predicament.
How the birds might have become stuck
On Reddit, things quickly got darker, with one person theorising that the birds may have been caught and placed there on purpose, pointing to a known online trend of people posting “fake animal rescue videos”.
In these fake posts, account holders place animals in dangerous situations so they can save the distressed animal and garner likes, however there is nothing to suggest that is how the birds became stuck.
Experts also voiced concerns, with Sean Dooley from BirdLife Australia telling Yahoo News Australia that upon first watch the video looked "suspicious".
He noted that the highly intelligent birds are part of the corvidae family which includes ravens and crows.
"They're a very intelligent species," he said.
"I'm a bit suss about whether this has been set up.
"They're very good at learning and you wouldn't imagine that once one was caught, others would be too.
"There's been a lot of research on crows, and jays and magpies and how they have great memories and they have a very good concept of self and concept of the other and they learn from other birds which they observe."
Sarah Ross from Four Paws International spoke to Yahoo News Australia from Germany, and after viewing the footage she also said it looks "extremely suspicious".
"Magpies are extremely smart and I have no clue how they would have ended up in a situation like this," she said.
Cristea Florin has been contacted for comment.
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