Captive or not?

Hello, I have been pondering a question for some time now: if we observe an animal that is not naturally present in a geographical area but is likely there due to abandonment, should it be considered as being in captivity or not?

Recently, in Belgium, specifically in the province of Walloon Brabant, I was able to observe a Trachemys scripta. This species is not naturally found in this region of the world, and it is highly probable that it was abandoned by an unscrupulous owner. This situation raises questions about its status: is it a captive animal or not?

What are your thoughts on this?

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While there is a bit of debate over it, I personally agree with the side that released organisms are wild because they have most likely been acting as a wild animal for a good while and can be very important to judging the start and spread of invasive populations. To mark them captive would be to hide them from the eyes of scientists, and these animals are pieces of very important data.


That Trachemys is considered wild for iNaturalist purposes. It’s out on it’s own.


Unless you know for sure that someone has deliberately abandoned there that animal, you should consider the possibility to keep it as wild. Who knows how long it is there and if there others (or many)…

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If the animal is outside by itself without being tended to or having a human owner it’s not captive.


Regardless of the iNat policy (which as mentioned by others is fairly clear in that case), I wonder whether they’d necessarily be released pets. There’s a fairly substantial population near Lille (so around 100km away from where you are) where I’ve seen fairly small juveniles. I’m no expert and our climate doesn’t seem warm enough, but I do wonder whether they might be reproducing.

Edit: To be honest, I’m almost hoping they’re reproducing, the alternative of so many being abandoned, including juveniles like that, is too depressing.


This isn’t the main focus of iNat, and I think over-emphasizing it sometimes goes against site policy. This doesn’t seem like the case here, but I find it unhelpful when people mark organisms wild—after they’ve been transported thousands of miles dead—just in case a scientist wants to know about it. If scientists are that interested, they can look at casual observations. I’m working with the spotted lanternfly right now, and marking such observations as wild actually makes things more difficult for what I’m doing. And don’t even get me started on “dump seashells” that people try and “return” to the beach after vacation in the tropics…


is seen quite often in Europe, just take a look at the taxon page, and there navigate to the map:

Though it is not “native” in Europe, we can safely assume that the animals are reproducing here. That also holds true for many other animals which were once kept in captivity here, and then escaped or were abandoned - like Myocastor coypus, Psittacula krameri, Eriocheir sinensis, etc.: they are “wild” now.


Even if you do know for sure it is generally better to lean on the side of wild, especially if it’s been abandoned for years.


Trachemys scripta reproduction is very uncommon in Europe, their numbers are sustained by constant releasing by pet owners.
Thank god they’re (mostly) not reproducing, they’re a big enough problem as it is.


We have millions observations. So, I think it is better to flag in the case of uncertainty or to ask other users for a point of view. Of course, uncertainty does not always mean the same. A possibly planted tree in a wild or semi-wild area is not the same as the same species close to a building or in an urban area but outside a closed property.

As stressed many times in the forum by many users, abandonement (edit: for plants only) does not change anything.

Site staff have clarified that escaped pets count as wild:

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