Animals in Temporary Captivity

I’m a wildlife rehabilitator. All of the animals I treat are born wild.

Many of my patients are first photographed after they’ve been captured for treatment, and have visible signs that they are captive (caging, patient ID tags, bedding, etc.).

I posted a lot of my patients, especially ones that might be hard for a layperson to identify, like neonates and unusual color morphs. Rehabilitation is a great way to get up-close photos of wildlife.

I’ve tagged the location where they were found as the site of the observation, but several of these were flagged as “captive” and I had a photo of a long-tailed weasel labeled a domestic ferret by someone who admitted he based the identification purely on the fact that the animal was in a cage. I’m particularly sore about that because long-tailed weasels are very rare in my region, with only one other being noted in the last 15 years, do it’s a noteworthy observation.

Aside from continuing to explain in the notes field why the animals appear to be captive, is there anything I can do to prevent observations of animals in rehabilitation from being erroneously flagged as captive and downgraded to “casual?” And does anyone else post observations of animals photographed in temporary captivity?


I don’t think there is much you can do aside from puttting the information in the description - if people are unwilling to read, they are unwilling to read and there isn’t much to be done.

Personally I’d like to see the original posters vote count as more for defining captivity, but that could have possible undesirable effects - i’ve had people mark clear zoo animals as ‘Wild’ in response to me setting them as captive.

I have posted several observations of wild-caught animals that I did not get to photograph until i brought it back to the lab (especially true of microscopic organisms), and have encountered argument to the effect that if they are captive at the time of the photo being taken, they should be marked captive.

Hopefully you get a reputation with the local identifiers to you who can help correct mistakes suggested by passers-by. If there is a project set-up for identifications in your local area, consider joining it and making yourself known.


All I can suggest is have that pre-prepared reply as accessible as you can. I use textblaze, a plugin for chrome, and it allows me to save regular replies and access then by typing a sequence that brings them up. iNat is primarily focused on wild organism observations, and given the frequency of new users posting captive and cultivated plants, the community at large will be pre-disposed to flagging anything in a cage as wild. The Identify page thumbnails don’t show the description/notes, so anyone doing annotations or DQA there will not see them. therefore it will be an ongoing annoyance to you, I’m afraid. I myself am coming to iNat from a cultivated plant background, and so I feel your pain in terms of iNat not quite being perfect for what I do :) It’s still pretty cool though.


I had a situation like this.

I used the date and location it was found, since I made recordings the day it was brought to the rehabber.


one other thing you might consider is adding some extra info in your profile. It says you are a licensed rehabilitator but you might also post something like ‘I often post animals that have been brought in for rehab. While they may be in cages or buildings when the photo was taken, all of the times and locations refer to when the animal was found in the wild, and these are indeed all wild animals’. Or similar. I know i do sometimes look at profiles to get a feel for what someone’s expertise, level of interest, etc are (and if they are a duress user) and others probably do too.

As you say this is a valuable way to add data since you get much closer photos of live animals than people would usually get, and also are collecting data on animals needing rehab, which may highlight conservation issues for these species as well, such as places where road injuries or habituation may occur.


I’ve had a similar situation. I run a conservation NGO in SE Asia and local laws require us and the park to keep any confiscated animals for a time to evaluate their health before releasing them back into the wild.

I’ve clearly stated that the animals in the photos are wild and are temporarily held before release back into the wild, but people ignore the description and just mark as captive.

Many people make an ID or mark something a certain way and never respond to other comments on the post or direct communication.

It’s annoying as hell.

Fortunately, it’s not a situation we face all that often.


Sounds like you’re doing everything right, but in this volunteer organization people are always going to be making mistakes. I’m sorry. It’s really frustrating. Perhaps you can tag or message other observers to vote “wild” for your observations and get past the erroneous “captive” votes.

(I could easily vote “captive” in a case like this; if I do this on your observations, tag me or message me and I will change my vote.)


this kind of thing is common on iNat and apparently one reason, based on watching friends use the site, is that many people use the app to do IDs and comments (!) and the app does not send notifications the way the website does. Though, i am not sure it is possible to mark an observation as captive using the app so that may not be the case here.

Broadly, we need to get better engagement and retention in people using the site especially those adding IDs or doing data quality analysis.


If you can actually provide the original sighting data (location, time, date) then there is no pressing reason why these couldn’t work as regular observations, i.e. not captive/casual. Photos of the individual in captivity don’t discount the observation itself from being “wild” – you just need the circumstances of it when it was still wild.


Right, i don’t see how it’s any different (in terms of iNat protocol) than the common occurrence of me taking plant samples or being given plant samples to identify. Yes they are often dried, or pressed, and are ‘captive’ in my hand or under a scope but… I map them with the date and location they are collected, and they are totally valid. If you are somewhat uncertain where the animal came from you can use a large uncertainty circle. If it’s totally unknown, like an illegal species intercepted at an airport from smugglers, yeah, that may need to be captive, i guess.


No, there isn’t a way to vote on DQA items when just viewing the thumbnail. When you click a thumbnail image, the pop-up/modal shows the larger images, date/time, map, description, IDs, and comments. Then there is a separate tab on the pop-up, after viewing the above, for the DQA.


We can pretty much always identify within a few hundred meters, of where the animals were taken from in the wild and confiscations in this case are not from pet trade, they’re from poachers and generally take place a few hours after the poaching event. Often as the poachers are returning from the forest, or when they are attempting to transfer them off the island.

In any case, we are on an island and all the of the animals come from this island, so the exact location isn’t all that important considering that the island is only 27 km by 23 km (roughly) and the wildlife is more-or-less evenly distributed across it.

We keep the animals for at most 2 days, generally far less, often only a few hours. Whenever possible I insist on a field evaluation and an immediate release as the holding facilities are poor.

In our situation, in my opinion, there is no justification for marking the animals captive.

Of course, we are in something of a unique position and many others are not in this same situation. That said, for on-the-ground conservation organizations and wildlife rescue operations this is not an uncommon position to be in.

While I approve of a vote system in general, there are times where I feel that obviously wrong votes (or identifications) should be over-ruled by the initial observer, especially when the other party refuses to respond to communication.


On the Identify page, I have to be in the popup to actually make an ID or click the “captive/cultivated” checkbox, and I see the description in the popup.


My apologies, I thought it could be done on the thumbnails.

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You’re right. These animals shouldn’t be marked “captive.” However, this kind of error is one of the costs of a volunteer organization, where people don’t necessarily understand the system. Hopefully this cost is outweighed by the good (lots of data at low cost) but it can be frustrating.

You and others can vote “wild” and I think (I may be wrong) that can eventually outvote the “captive” votes.

I don’t know – Is it possible to flag the observation for curation and ask for an override? Should the possibility be added? Are curators already overwhelmed with work?


Curators can not ‘override’ the input of another user. We have no ability to edit or delete DQA votes or any other input from a user. All we can do is vote as well, and our vote counts the same as every other vote. The user adding an offsetting vote has the same impact we can have.

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I thought so. A good thing overall, though occasionally a problem.

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Maybe the problem is that “wild” <-> “captive” is a false dichotomy, and that can be confusing. The options should probably be “wild” or “domestic” and “free” or “captive”. The typical zoo animal would be (wild, captive). A feral cat would be (domestic, free), it would help in this case to have an “introduce species” flag. Pets like cats and dogs would be (domestic, captive). While free/captive seems to be a clear choice most of the time, wild/domestic can be ambiguous.


there is an introduced species flag, but it goes by place not by individual observation. And yeah, it’s all grey areas, but we just have to draw a line somewhere and what we do works as well as anything. There are lots of other threads that get into this too.

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This sounds promising but I don’t think it would change much. People seeing a cat will tick captive + domestic anyway, if they normally mark them captive/cultivated.