Plants listed have been stolen

I would like to draw awareness to the fact that of the four plants that I listed on inaturalist, within a week they were stolen. The plants were ripped from the ground. My fourth listing was high in a tree and so that apparently saved it. I am concerned that the site is used to locate plants for personal removal. Please investigate


Hi @maski, and welcome to the forum; I’m sorry to hear about the plants. I had a look at the observations in question, and the locations have been obscured (by you) for all of them. Did you obscure the locations on the day you posted them, or did you only change that setting now? If the former is correct, then I don’t really think it’s possible for someone to have used the site to specifically target your plants, given the true locations for those observations are randomly scrambled into a ~500 square km box (and those observations are your only ones, so their locations couldn’t be intuited from others you posted).

As an aside, it is indeed a legitimate concern that some people may use iNaturalist (or other similar platforms) to target and poach/collect species. A good way to combat this is to obscure the location of your observations, which you have already done.


This is certainly possible, and poaching is a concern for some groups. If you think a particular individual you observe is vulnerable to poaching, I would encourage you to obscure that observation as it provides good (though not necessarily perfect) protection of the exact location, though there is a trade-off here in that the data becomes less valuable (if that is something you care about).


A little more context would be helpful here. Were the plants somewhere hard to access, or in an accessible park or developed area? Were they species that are known to be targeted by poachers? Might they have been subject to herbivory rather than poaching? Might those plants have been targeted without your iNat observations at all? Without more information it’s hard to know whether your iNat observations really are the cause of the plants disappearing.

When I was living in the city, one of the things I noticed was that landscaping crews would go into the natural areas in parks and just dig up ferns and wildflowers to put into client’s gardens. They didn’t know what they were digging up, they just knew it was free and saved them a trip to the plant nursery. Some of the homeowners seemed to do this on their own as well. Sometimes they took rare plants!

As others note, obscuring observation locations provides a simple solution to any possibility your iNat observations could cause anything like this.


It looks like all of the species you observed are automatically obscured in your region on iNaturalist due to risk of disturbance/poaching like this. However, they wouldn’t have been obscured when you initially posted them because they weren’t initially identified as those species.

If there are many sensitive species within a certain genus or family in your region, it might be worth starting a discussion in a flag on that taxon about obscuring at a higher level? I don’t know how much support there would be for auto-obscuring an entire family though… (e.g. orchids)


@maski also manually obscured them (that was why I was wondering if they did this at the time of upload, or later)


Hi @maski, I’m sorry to hear about this. I see that each of your four observations were posted using the Wild Orchid Watch app which securely logs you into your iNat account. If you look at their FAQs, you can see that

All orchid sightings submitted via the WOW app will have geoprivacy set to ‘obscured’.

This suggests that the removal of the orchids was unrelated to your iNaturalist observations because no one except you and the WOW project administrators could see the precise locations, even before they were identified to species and therefore additionally protected by taxon geoprivacy rules. If you have any additional details you can share that suggest otherwise, please do.


Where abouts in the world are you? Is poaching a common problem in your region?

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Three appear to be within the city of Brisbane, Australia, although those locations are presumably the end product of obscuring and the real locations are somewhere within 25 KM or so. The fourth (apparently the one that is high off the ground) is Casual because its co-ordinates are in the Tasman Sea, much farther from shore than would be the expected result of iNat obscuring.


Thanks. I’m at a loss to explain iNat’s role in this. Do we know if @maski has had any other observations tampered with?

Those four are the only observations on the account. They are from almost a year ago and they are all posted via the Wild Orchid Watch app.


Based on the information given I’m not sure if any “leak” could have happened due to iNat’s data/observations. The species in question are relatively easy to find when flowering and if the proximity to the highly traversed Brisbane CBD is correct then maybe it’s just a coincidence that they were “stolen” within a few days of the observations being posted… they only flower for a short period and that’s when they’re most noticeable (some you won’t even see if they’re not flowering). So, I’m not sure. The observations were from a year ago as well so I’m also not sure how that fits into the equation.

Anyway, based on the QLD list of “confidential” species, I’ve added a LC status and obscured the locations of Cymbidium canaliculatum observations for QLD, Australia. So, even though @maski (or WOW, or both) obscured the location, it’s now done automatically on iNat as well


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