Inat observation posting a possibly illegally captive animal

I recently came across an observation featuring an animal that most likely is illegally/wrongfully captive, although probably unknowingly to the user. So, the question is: what to do about it? apart from commenting in the post trying to discuss it with the user and, hopefully, educating. Should it be flagged? Or otherwise call the attention of Inat staff? Are there any guidelines in Inat? Also, it’s hard to assess the situation in the first place and a lot of user don’t provide any context about the pictures they post.


Are you willing to provide a link?

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I don’t think there’s very much iNat itself can do - the best thing would probably be to contact an anti-poaching organization in the region where the photograph was taken.


If you want to send the link to I’d be happy to look into it. You can also ask the observer in a commment or via a direct message, if you’re comfortable doing that. In general I think it’s always good to start a non-judgemental dialogue, but that’s sometimes not easy.


Ideally any submitted record to iNat that includes an endangered or otherwise protected species that is in hand or captive should probably include notes that indicate it was done legally. Assuming it was legal.

But as you say, providing context for an observation is something few do. I’m possibly guilty of omitting such info myself for a few of my records.


The observations in the projects species in trade and wildlife trade: mammals are similar. For categorizing observations, there are also species in trade fields.


i would hesitate to summon the mob, but agree that it’s an upsetting find and that local anti-poaching groups may be best positioned to respond.


adding on to this Wild Birds in Cages is a project I run that also falls under this category

As outside observers it’s difficult and possibly even unethical to assume that a user is committing a crime or illegal activity. In many cases the actual illegal act is being done by somebody who isn’t the observer, so I don’t think we should necessarily discourage people from uploading observations of poached or illegally harvested organisms. The data from such observations can be valuable for conservation purposes.


There is a project in Africa to record what commercial fishermen are catching. The data is useful and important. (But hard for me to go thru pages of dead, fish sharks rays turtles)


Thanks! I did a few minutes ago.

Yes! that’s a great point. My general idea is that we can not just see the post and move on, but I don´t know the reach of what we can be done… Would a special project be a good idea? something like “Captive wildlife”, maybe… and to raise awareness.

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Hi All,

I work for WWF’s APAC Counter Illegal Wildlife Trade HUB and have actually started collection projects based on potential pics that look 'suspect. From this we can do an initial assessment of the pic (zoonotic potential, illegalities) etc, a kind of ‘early warning system’.

We created an observation field by which iNat users can tag such pics…check out this other thread…


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