Are observations of caged animals an example of someone’s interest towards nature?

Just a simple question: are observations of caged animals an example of someone’s interest towards nature?

that depends, I guess? What caged animals, in which situation, in which context, and what does “interest towards nature” mean?


One and two are not related.

Whether it is desirable to upload photos of caged animals is a different matter: I don’t like to see that happen here, nor do I like photos of temporarily held animals (hand, jar).
For some scientific purpose that could be useful (KD Dijkstra catching unknown odonata on the plains of Ethopia is one, I fear)
It is said that studying animals in hand or in jars is good for building awareness of their environment in kids. It is probably correct, yet I would prefer it if we started teaching them that all animals rather not be picked up or otherwise disturbed.

just my 2p


How can you decide for someone else? But of course people go to zoo because they don’t see those animals in casual life, so it’s an interest in newelty but in animals themselves too.


Probably? I doubt that people would be taking a picture of an empty cage. And most people only really take pictures of things that they are interested in to some extent. But I guess you could always ask/post a comment?


Sometimes caged animals are important to document, and sometimes it’s the only way to get a photo.

I deal with poachers in my work, so we sometimes have confiscated animals we need to check for health and release. With them caged photos are often the only option.

It’s also important to document animals in wildlife trade, and those are usually caged (if they’re still alive).


As with anything, it depends. Certainly my visits to the local Zoo as a child helped me learn about animals I had never seen. Whether I would take a photo of them and post it as an observation is a different thing. I might post something local that has been extirpated, like a bison. I would not post snow leopards as they are not native to my area. If all a person posts are pictures of caged animals it may be more an attempt at padding observations than interest in nature. However, a person unable to move around well may use caged animals because those are all they can access. So without knowing specifics it’s hard to answer that question in a satisfying way.

In my opinion, there is no punishment too severe for poachers or people who trade in wildlife. I’m glad people like you can work in that area, because I would likely wind up in jail if I had to work with them!

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There’s no single answer to that. Of course, unnecessarily caging an animal can be seen as barbaric, but not all caged animals fall into that category. What about an injured animal that has been caught and caged for its own protection and that of the vets during treatment?
I happen to live near one of the world’s leading wildlife rescue centres. They have a publicly visitable area where they keep some of the rescued animals that are not fit for release into the wild, and people come from miles around and pay to see them (most of them are species that are rare to see up close in the wild), which raises money to run the rescue centre.
Many zoos are engaged in similar activities, to a greater or lesser extent. Unquestionably some of them are unjustifiable, but others do important work. So certainly people with a genuine interest in nature are justified in coming into contact with caged animals.
The question then is whether it is useful to post these as iNat observations. And that depends. I can’t see much point in posting an observation of a panda in Edinburgh Zoo, say. But let’s imagine a wild fox has been temporarily caged for the purposes of medical treatment or translocation from an unsafe area; that would be a legitimate wild observation, even if the only photo of the animal you are likely to have is in the cage.


it really depends. i have uploaded something caged seen at a restaurant of side of the road for the purpose of identification and cooperation with anti wildlife crime ngo’s


Well, what kind of cage? A temporary enclosure like a kid might put grasshoppers in, an objectively cruel confinement, or a well-set-up enclosure appropriate for the animal? Is a large, clean, cycled aquarium with tadpoles in it a “cage”? They’re certainly contained, but they aren’t suffering.

I guess it depends on the definition of cage here?? I definitely have uploaded observations of various bugs and things in temporary containers for the sake of getting clear, close up, ID-able photos for some things, as well as uploading a Pseudoscorpion ( that ended up in my culture of Trachelipus rathkii isopods, likely from a piece of bark I had put in there a few days earlier from my backyard for the pods to hide under.

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I am interested in insects and frequently sweep or net then put an interesting individual in a glass tube or culture tray to photograph before releasing. This is a good way to capture the fauna of a given area.
There is not a better way to photograph these animals without purchasing expensive camera equipment, which will still be inefficient.
“Free flight only” will limit counting these insects in the ecology of an area.

A wild animal caught on someone’s property = wild
Going to a zoo and turning observations = a no-go.

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My simple answer is ‘certainly’.
Then there’s context: as @earthknight hinted, the same animal in the same cage could come either from poachers or from park rangers.

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If this is a platform for collecting important data, catching and observing a specimen with a hand lens is not necessarily harmful. For example, holding a bluet sp. to confirm species and releasing does no harm, if handled correctly. (I would never catch or hold a shiny teneral ode) Educating those to use proper handling techniques is key. If you are doing an inventory, for some taxon, this would be the only real way to confirm what species you have. Also, for the younger naturalists (inquisitive kids), viewing a beetle in a jar is far less harmful than holding it in hand and risking it getting squished, being overhandled, or falling to the floor. Again, educating them to be gentle and leave nature where they found it afterwards is what I have always taught my students. I even had them place insects in a larger viewing container and have it left on a table where all can see what is inside. Once finished, the students always enjoyed the “release.”


I agree - I think it is better not to pick animals up and handle them. I guess I’m mainly thinking of fish. As noted above it’s probably fine for some critters - with some training or just carefulness. For fish, maybe just observe them in their native habitat!

There was recently a forum topic about “discourage “illegal” photos.” Although in it, many seemed to think this platform itself isn’t the place to regulate/enforce such things. Also re: your topic, you may want to see that there are projects about wildlife trade / animals in trade. Having said all this, it’s also possible to flag any photo for “offensive” content. After which, curators will decide if it should stay or be deleted.

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John Lilly explored this issue adequately in his early work studying wild dolphins. The CIA gave him a lot of funding to be able to construct architecture which preserved the dolphins’ wildness and free choice to interact. They could swim into the enclosure from the natural ocean if they liked. This was how he guaranteed to his benefactors that his subjects were wild.

I don’t think iNaturalist is the place for virtue signalling around ‘your’ ‘interests’. It is a serious website for studying wildlife. Photos are used to co-operate constructively with artificial intelligence to identify exact species in order to prove their existence in certain areas. Valid participants are documenting wild animals for funding.

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Depends really, perhaps if it was a trap to catch pest species and the native or rare creature walked in he may have snapped a photo before releasing it

That may apply to a very few. But absolutely not most of us. The intention of iNat is to encourage ‘ordinary people’ to notice nature. Scientific data, is a bonus.