What to do when you lose your camera on holiday... :(

So. Recently, I suffered a bit of a castrophe… We were on holiday in Belize, and I was absolutely loving all of the carribean/central american wildlife, especially the underwater creatures we saw when diving and snorkelling. We also went further inland towards the end of the trip, and saw some really cool bird and reptile life.

However, on the way home, disaster struck, and I left my camera on the plane. American Airlines are looking for it, but I’m absolutely gutted, not least because I lost about four days of observations - including Keel Billed Toucans, Collared Aracari and Montezuma Oropendolas. A pretty grim ending to the trip… :(

Thankfully, I had a sound recording of the Oropendolas, but I’ve nothing to show for the Toucans, or many of the other animals. I would still love to record them, though, as I use iNaturalist as much as a personal checklist of animals I have seen as anything else. I thought of two options:

  1. I could sketch the birds from memory - I have a very clear picture of where they were, what they were doing, and how many there were, and I’m not too shabby at drawing. I could then upload that as an observation. Would that be able to be verified?

  2. I could upload an observation, possibly even an empty one, and set it to ‘Private’ if there is such a setting. I don’t want to waste the community’s time with an unidentifiable observation, so is there any way to upload an observation, purely for a personal record of a sighting, and keep it hidden from everyone else?

I mean, I really hope American finds the camera, but I don’t have great expectations. Has this ever happened to anyone else, or does anyone have suggestions of ways forward?

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First off, hopefully it gets found. Just to note, there is absolutely no requirement to add a photo or recording to an observation. They are perfectly fine without. They can’t get to research grade, but if you want to track them, have them on your checklist etc, you can certainly enter them as records.


Sorry to hear about that :(

Sketches have been discussed and are allowed as long as they represent the organism that was observed rather than being based on field guide images etc. If you want to, you can add the observation field “Illustration”.

If you add observations with no photo or sketch, there is no need to hide or set to Private. Such observations won’t appear by default in Identify unless an identifier changes their filters to specifically look for them. You can make as many observations without photos as you want without any problems.


Crossing my fingers for you that they find it!!


Thank you everyone! And good suggestions all round.

I actually found that I had taken a couple of photos of taxidermied members of the species at a museum in Belize on my phone, and so I added them on as the images just so as to show the species (here and here). I also set the observations to captive to ensure a Casual Grade so they didn’t get added into any research.

Is that a reasonable approach? Is there a better tag than ‘captive’ to ensure a Casual grade observation (because technically they weren’t captive)? If not, I’m happy to modify the observations or delete them or whatever! :)

The best way is probably to make an observation with no photo, but everything else correct (not marked captive). Because the observation lacks a photo it will be automatically marked “Has Photos or Sounds: No”. If you get your camera back, all you’ll have to do is add the photo to the observation. If you don’t, then there will still be a “Casual” observation of a wild Toucan at the location you gave.


You could make all the observations, then use the DQA field “Based on the evidence, can the Community ID still be confirmed or improved?”.

I think it will remove it from the IDing “radar”. Should you get the photo you can add it to the observation and then reverse the option.

Photoless observations are already dropped out of the default Identify page, so no need to mark anything in the Data Quality Assessment section.

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Just a wee update, more in case anyone else stumbles on this thread in a similar predicament to myself - What I’ve decided to do, shaped in part by everyone’s help here (thanks!) is to upload them with no images, but also add them to a list called “The Ones That Got Away”.

Losing your camera is pretty rubbish, but so is not being able to get a photo of something amazing you see before it runs away, or even seeing something awesome when you don’t have your camera on you (ugh). As such, I’ve tried to take a not great experience and use it to make something that will hopefully enrich my iNat experience in lots of different situations. Having a list like this to act as both a record and a “To See Again!” checklist will mean there’s less frustration and pressure when things like this inevitably happen again, and also means the species you see but don’t record can still get added to your life list.

All in all, hopefully a fairly decent solution which appeals to the completionist in me. :P thanks again for everyone’s help!


What a terrific attitude you are exampling! I think the saying goes “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”! And it’s a reality that we all will lose our cherished cameras someday, whether it be theft, loss or just obsolescence. I’m nearly at the point of stepping up in gear and, other than the cost, I am dreading having to learn to use new gear.

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