Data publishing helps save threatened species

Scientists and conservationists have blamed publishing locations of rare species for helping poachers drive them to extinction. However, new research has shown that it could rather help many animals.

Scientists and conservationists have continually called for location data to be turned off in wildlife photos and publications to help preserve species.

However, new research from the University of Sydney has shown that there could be a lot to be gained from sharing a rare find rather than obscuring it.

“Species, like Australia’s tiny grassland earless dragon, have received greater environmental protection because published data was available to show that they were in trouble,” commented study leader Dr. Ayesha Tulloch in a statement.

“The challenge is to share data in a way that avoids perverse outcomes such as local species extinctions from human exploitation.”

In some cases, poachers have used published data to hunt rare animals for the illegal wildlife trade, while bird watchers and sightseers can accidentally do damage if they trample a patch of habitat, according to the statement.

This is why scientists have called to prevent the publication of data about threatened species. Yet good data can help conservation managers know where action is needed.

Dr. Tulloch collaborated with scientists from nine organizations to design a framework that helps researchers and conservationists choose how to share sensitive data.

“A key aspect is identifying whether poaching, illegal trade or disturbance from eager spectators really poses a real threat which can’t be managed,” she said.

“Then there are a number of ways you can deal with that data, such as only showing locations in 100km grid squares, that could allow it to be published without putting those species at risk.”

Photo credit: Valerie/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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