Monday January 04, 2016

Scientific journals omit locations of new species to stop poaching

In 2013, Marinus Hoogmoed published a paper about this poison dart frog. Soon after, the frogs turned up for sale in Germany.

In 2013, Marinus Hoogmoed published a paper about this poison dart frog. Soon after, the frogs turned up for sale in Germany. (Left: A. Gambarini, Right: Marinus Hoogmoed)

Listen 6:39

In an effort to combat poaching, some academic journals are choosing to omit the location of newly discovered species. Smugglers have been known to use geographic information published in scientific papers to find new animals.

It's something that Marinus Hoogmoed has experienced first hand. He's a scientist, in Brazil, who studies amphibians and reptiles.

In 2013, Hoogmoed released a paper about his discovery of a new light blue poison dart frog in Brazil. A few months later, a colleague told him that the frog was being sold in Germany.

Light blue poison dart frog

A terrarium keeper sent scientist Marinus Hoogmoed this photo of dozens of light blue poison dart frogs for sale in Germany. (Marinus Hoogmoed)

"We felt, more or less, cheated. Our paper was being used to ends that it wasn't intended to be used for," Hoogmoed tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann. Hoogmoed says the smugglers used the locations mentioned in the paper as a "road map" the the frogs.

Even if an author decides to withhold the location of a new species, Hoogmoed says that doesn't guarantee that poachers won't be able to find the animal.

"With the present technology of GPS, it's easy to track down places," he says. "It's very difficult to keep things like this a secret for a long time."