JUL 25, 2018 07:46 PM PDT

Does location sharing hurt or help endangered species?

Does sharing the locations of rare and endangered species help or harm those species? That’s the question that scientists from the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland aimed to answer in their new study, which reevaluated the impacts of data sharing. What did they conclude? More species can actually benefit from the sharing of data than those that are harmed.

Let’s break down the two sides. Conventionally, conservations have argued that sharing the locations of vulnerable species gives poachers a leg up on the animals, making those on-the-brink species even more vulnerable. "It is undeniable that in some cases, poachers have used published data to hunt down rare animals for the illegal wildlife trade. And even well-meaning people like bird watchers and sight-seers can sometimes do damage when enough of them trample a patch of habitat. Which is why scientists and conservationists have continually called on location data to be turned off in nature photos to help preserve species," explains lead researcher Dr. Ayesha Tulloch. This is exactly what happened with the local extinction of the Chinese cave gecko.

But the Australian researchers argue that there are pros to sharing data locations of endangered species. "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," said Dr. Tulloch.

What Dr. Tulloch suggests is a compromise of sorts: a framework that gives researchers and conservationists different options on how to share and not share sensitive data. Based on information about poaching, illegal trade, and human disturbance, the framework allows for delicate distinctions that in the end, all aim to save wildlife lives. Giving an example, Tulloch explains, "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.”

But in the end, Tulloch and the nine organizations she collaborated with are clear about their goals. "The challenge is to share data in a way that avoids perverse outcomes such as local species extinctions from human exploitation. But stopping all data publishing is not the answer. Data publishing has also led to improved protection and conservation for many species. Good data helps conservation managers know where action is needed."

A photograph of Rafflesia, Malaysia's giant parasitic corpse flower, which lacks protected habitat to thrive in. Photo: University of Queensland

Sources: Science Daily, Nature Ecology & Evolution

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 28, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 28, 2018
Scientists determine cause behind huge Asian smoke cloud
New research published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents surprising findings concerning the origins of the smoke cloud t...
DEC 30, 2018
Videos
DEC 30, 2018
The world's first plastic-free flight
The Portuguese airline Hi Fly made new strides this week in the fight against the global plastic crisis when they became the first airline to have a single...
JAN 08, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 08, 2019
This Bee Nests in Small Cavities in Australia's Banksia Trees
The world is home to all kinds of bees, some better-known than others, but all bee species play an essential role in the environment. A lesser-known specie...
JAN 21, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 21, 2019
A Small Snake Eaten by a Larger Snake Turned Out to be a New Species
More than four decades ago, curious researchers carefully analyzed the stomach contents of a Central American coral snake that had been captured in Chiapas...
FEB 04, 2019
Earth & The Environment
FEB 04, 2019
Rethinking how we predict earthquakes
Last September Indonesia’s Palu region was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that resulted in over 2,000 deaths. In the aftereffects of the quake,...
FEB 11, 2019
Plants & Animals
FEB 11, 2019
Researchers Are Cooling Down Sea Turtle Nests for Conservation Purposes
Climate change impacts all kinds of wild animals, including several varieties of sea turtles – many of which are now recognized by the International...
Loading Comments...