Should the location of newly discovered species be hidden?

aramcheck

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BBC News, London 20 march 2012


Should the Location of Newly Discovered Species be Hidden?

"In 1999, herpetologist Bryan Stuart was working in Northern Laos when he stumbled across an eye-catching newt he had never seen before [...] later he published an article in the Journal of Herpetology, announcing the discovery of the new species, Laotriton laoensis.

But his joy turned to horror when he realised his discovery had caught the attention of amphibian dealers around the world. Examples of the species were popping up in pictures on amphibian pet forums as far away as Germany and Japan.
[...]
Because the newt is unique to Laos and only found in three small areas in the north of the country, the population was quickly decimated.



In 2008, six years after the publication of Stuart's paper, a biologist from the National University of Laos, Somphouthone Phimmachak, proved the species was close to extinction. Her work led to the Lao newt being granted official status as a threatened species, making it illegal to trade specimens caught in the wild.


It wasn't the first time a scientific discovery has put a rare species in danger."


An interesting article on the problem with publishing location information on newly discovered species.
 

SludgeMunkey

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In my opinion all species locations should be hidden by vast generalizations, new or not.
 

Molch

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I'm all for keeping it secret; moreover, I'm for categorically out-lawing all trade in wild-caught herps. Let pet herps be captive-bred exclusively.
 

John

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This is what happened to kaiseri and by the time anyone did anything that mattered (listing it in CITES appendix 1) it was too late for the species. Local protection is only good if they enforce it, and I don't think think Laos will. This is one reason why I have mixed feelings about iNaturalist/Amphibian BioBlitz. I don't think locations should be publicly available for 90% of amphibians, but I'm a bit extreme.
 

sallie2010

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Hiding specie discovery is a hard business especially if you are scientist and that is what pays your bills is to document and publish for grants and the like. The idea that the new specie was hunted to near extinction is an example of how poverty has changed the face of the open market. When there is a demand for exotic there is usually someone at the other end that needs the money to feed their family.
I am not condoning the act of literally stealing animals out of the wild. However through history this is how man has not only gained its "pets" but also the ones that people look at in zoos and circuses. It is societal pressure of Third World Countries because there is always a demand for items to be cheap. When it comes to pets it is the same thing...the idea of uniqueness. That is why we still have problems in the states with exotic game hunts because there are the few that "need" to feel important and to show their importance with a mounted tiger head or tiger pelt on the floor. Forget the fact that the so called "hunter" stood there while the animal ran from its cage and then shot it before it got out of sight.
I believe Steve Erwin had the right idea...not declaring species threatened, endangered, or the like...but buying up the land and making everything on that land private property. Does that stop poachers...not exactly but it would make it a little harder if you buy the land and then have specially trained people (that were hired within that country) to watch over THEIR land.
It goes back to education...without it man is blind. Is that the teacher in me most likely but it is true. We cannot sit here and blindly buy things because of expense or exotic nature but to be educated as to WHY that thing is not needed. That is what is lacking in the society today the WHY IT IS NOT NEEDED because there is too much stuff that we can get just because we can get it. (trust me I see it in teenagers everyday with the darn cell phones and sneakers)
Hiding isn't a solution....education is. And it is education that will lead us out of the darkness and into the light.
 

John

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Sallie2010: A couple of points. Firstly, it's species (singular and plural), not specie.

Now on to the points you've made. Your view does not account for what I've seen in the USA and in mainland Europe. Laying it all at the feet of the poor in Third World countries is a narrow view and a mistaken one. Luckily most of the species collected in Europe and North America are not endangered, but they are collected nonetheless.

Regarding the two species that have been mentioned in this thread, I can't speak for Laotriton, but the plight of Neurergus kaiseri was initiated by German scientist Sebastian Steinfartz and his friends. Steinfartz is a well published salamander research scientist but he is also a newt enthusiast. He and his friends went to the native habitat of N. kaiseri and collected them, brought them back to Germany and bred them. They then sold them for exorbitant prices (I witnessed this in person at Gersfeld over 10 years ago). Until they put the newts on the market there really had been no knowledge or market for them. They gave birth to the huge commercial market for these newts and I lay the blame for this species' dire situation in the wild squarely at Steinfartz's feet and those of his friends.

Now you know who one of these Germans could be:
[quote="The Lizard King" by Bryan Christy]There is a joke among reptile smugglers: what's the first thing that happens when a new reptile or amphibian species is discovered? Answer: two Germans buy plane tickets.[/quote]

Disclaimer: No offense intended to our German members! Grüße meine deutschen Freunde!
 

Azhael

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I´m torn in this matter.....on one hand i give absolute preference to the well-being and conservation of animals, over people having access to the animal. On the other, i find it is an extremely problematic symptom of something really wrong, if information can´t be shared among the scientific community.

The problem of course is rooted in society...we think our poop smells of divinity, but we are just impulsive, capricious monkeys that can´t be trusted.

I do have a little comment to make about yours, Molch. While i deeply share the preocupation with imports, i would not like to see imports completely eliminated. The inmediate result of CB only herps, is domestication, and we know what that entails with the current mentallity. I think the only chance of maintaining healthy captive populations necessarily includes having a very moderate amount of imports. I´ve expressed what i think an apropriate, legal import should be like, before, and i know it´s extremely rare. What i would really like to see is the end of mass collections and mass importation (as well as a radical change in the hobby itself) and a substitution with properly conducted importations. I think it´s possible, but it´s certainly not going to happen any time soon.

On an ending, depressive note, while i wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of "it is education that will lead us out of the darkness and into the light", clearly our society as a whole is light years away from where we should be and if it´s true that keeping secrets is the only way you can protect something, then this is our own fault and we have no right to protest. There is a lot of educating to be done, but meanwhile, we have to deal with an uneducated world.
 

Molch

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I do have a little comment to make about yours, Molch. While i deeply share the preocupation with imports, i would not like to see imports completely eliminated. The inmediate result of CB only herps, is domestication, and we know what that entails with the current mentallity. I think the only chance of maintaining healthy captive populations necessarily includes having a very moderate amount of imports. I´ve expressed what i think an apropriate, legal import should be like, before, and i know it´s extremely rare. What i would really like to see is the end of mass collections and mass importation (as well as a radical change in the hobby itself) and a substitution with properly conducted importations. I think it´s possible, but it´s certainly not going to happen any time soon.

I sort-of agree. My gripe is primarily with commercial collection in the wild. I would say that very limited and controlled collections in the wild would be okay if:

1) if it has been shown (actually shown wit real data, not assumed - is there any real data out there that this even happens?) that a population of captive bred newts is declining in vitality and needs an infusion of wild genes

2) if such animals are not put up for sale in the public market, but are distributed to known and succesful breeders of that species who will treat them right and will breed them and who know what they are doing.

3) a newly discovered species does not need to automatically become a captive-bred species. We really don't need to have ALL of them (it's the damned collector-mentality). UNLESS it is determined that the species is in danger of disappearing from the wild, in which case a limited number could be collected and...(see point 2)

Anyways, that's how it would go if I were Queen of the World. Of course, I'm queen only to a couple of dogs and a handful of newts, and they don't listen to me anyways.
 
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