Obscuring Observations of Species at Risk of Poaching

There has been a lot of recent attention in the media (see articles below) surrounding the poaching of various species of California’s coastal succulents. One of the many INaturalist features I appreciate is the automatic ‘obscure’ function for species of special concern. In species that are not listed, however, the user must opt to obscure the observation themselves. Many Dudleya and other succulent species are not of special status, and are therefore not automatically obscured. My fear is that users may inadvertently be contributing to highlighting areas of high density for poachers as an unfortunate and unforeseen side effect of this site.

Might we consider adding some way of protecting species that are under threat that are not of special status listing?

https://www.npr.org/2018/05/20/611570479/the-case-of-the-stolen-succulents

https://www.newyorker.com/news/california-chronicles/succulent-smugglers-descend-on-california

https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9327697-181/plant-smugglers-take-massive-toll

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/20/busting-plant-smugglers-along-californias-coast/

https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/2163157/californias-succulent-smugglers-plant-poachers

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here’s a related thread: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/worrisome-trend-of-dudleya-farinosa-poaching-in-california/663

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Ah, thanks for directing me to this. I’m still new to this aspect of INaturalist and haven’t explored archived conversations.

Curators can and do already obscure individual species manually. If you see a species that seems like iNat data spurs poaching, you could flag the taxon for curation.

Where to flag:

More info here:
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/curator+guide#geoprivacy

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Thanks, I was not aware of this function…

Is curation possible only on a case by case basis, or as a whole for a species or genus?

Setting a conservation status above the species level is possible but we advise against it aside from special cases, like Rhinos (which was the intended use when genus-level obscuration was requested).

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Hello! I’m part of the conservation staff at The International Carnivorous Plant Society. We’re seeing increasing amounts of poaching of sites, and (anecdotal) evidence is suggesting a correlation with posting information about these species on iNaturalist. Who can I communicate with, regarding the automatic blurring of these sensitive genera?

Thanks!

Please note that the best way to contact me would be via direct email, which you probably have access to via my account.

Cheers

Barry

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Barry, you can email help@inaturalist.org regarding the overall larger issue (I’d be curious about the anecdotal evidence), but as @bouteloua wrote above, if there are specific taxa you think need to be obscured, please flag the taxon itself.

Hi,

OK, thanks. I’ll take it up with help@inaturalist.org. I’m not a user of the app (sorry, I know lots that use it to great benefit, and I applaud your target ideas), so don’t know how to flag the various taxa under discussion.

I’d rather avoid discussing the various taxa in an open forum–if you want to be involved more directly in this conversation, please don’t hesitate to email me directly, and I’ll cc you.

Cheers

Barry

If you truly have evidence inaturalist is causing (rather than correlated with) plant poaching, please do share it, at least with the admins. For all the fear about it, while i do think caution is advised… i think the issue is largely overstated. (There’s also bias because the benefit of sharing the biodiversity data is harder to measure.)