[Taxacom] Taxacom Digest, Vol 173, Issue 10

Hinrich Kaiser chalcopis at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 27 03:10:00 CDT 2020

Dear Colleagues,
Expanding on the apparent tarantula problem, I was wondering whether I could receive opinions on the following actual scenario (without specifics, to protect individuals' and institutions' identities).
A new species from a group of CITES Appendix II animals was described based on a single specimen with legally and ethically questionable origin in a non-peer reviewed publication. The following information can be gleaned from the paper describing the species: The specimen was collected by unnamed local villagers, collecting date not provided, who sold it to a named facilitator. There is no further explanation how the specimen crossed at least three international borders to eventually end up accessioned in a major collection, but personnel of the receiving institution are acknowledged in the paper for facilitating accession of the specimen. There is no mention of any collecting permit.
Upon a request for information, it became clear that the permitting authority in the country of origin was unaware of any collecting activity of this taxon in the time from the country's independence to the paper's publication date. The country of import has very specific requirements for importation of CITES II species from the country of origin and it is unclear whether any compliance paperwork was filed. Verbal requests to the institution for permit and collecting information were strongly rebuffed.
My questions are as follows:(1) Should this issue be examined to ensure proper procedure was followed?
(2) If it appears that proper procedure was not followed, the specimen may be removed from the institution's care (this is the normal process with illegally collected CITES material in the country in question). In many instances, specimens are subsequently destroyed, which means that the holotype would no longer be extant. The specimen would certainly lose its status as owned by the institution (i.e., it would likely have to be deaccessioned).
(3) Other than the obvious issue with the holotype not being available for study after its removal from the institution (probably necessitating the designation of a neotype), should such an issue in any way impact the validity of the original description? An alternative available name exists.
These are complex questions that tangle with law enforcement, professional ethics, taxonomy, and nomenclature. I think most would agree that illegal specimens should not be used to describe species and institutions should certainly not assist by "laundering" such material. However, there really is no path to fix something like this, or is there?
Thanks for your input.Hinrich

Hinrich Kaiser PhD FLS
Executive Vice President for Global Sourcing, B2B Food Services, Inc.
Professor of Biology, Victor Valley CollegeEditor-in-Chief, Herpetology NotesGuest Researcher, Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander KoenigResearch Associate, USNM, Smithsonian InstitutionExecutive Committee Member, World Congress of Herpetology
PeaceJam Representative of Nobel Peace Laureate José Ramos-HortaMember, Int. Advisory Board, Foundation for Post-Conflict Development

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    On Saturday, September 26, 2020, 08:18:19 PM GMT+2, taxacom-request at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <taxacom-request at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
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Today's Topics:

  1. Early warning (Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz)
  2. Re: Early warning (Sergio Henriques)
  3. Re: Early warning (Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz)


Message: 1
Date: Sat, 26 Sep 2020 12:30:42 +0300
From: Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz <biotemail at gmail.com>
To: Taxa com <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: [Taxacom] Early warning
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Dear Taxacomers,
I see signs of a new species of tarantula being in process of description.
The researcher already published a non-spider species based on material
that was illegally collected and illegally imported to Europe. Based on the
timing of events, the spiders may have the same or similar origin. I
encourage journal editors and reviewers to extra check for legal origin of
tarantula specimens, and to keep an eye open for incomplete specimen data,
such as collectors not stated in the manuscript. Illegal trade of
tarantulas is decimating wild populations, and the last thing that I want
to see is researchers fueling it.
I also raise the issue that attempted whitewashing of illegal specimens
through scientific papers harms the entire taxonomic community. We may not
notice when new species based on illegal specimens come to light, but every
time this happens, the network of illegal collectors and dealers do know.
Then, just because of scientific misconduct of a few researchers, we all
end up seen as hypocrites that "do it too".
Another thing. When these cases happen and the holding institution
discovers that it ended up receiving illegal specimens, my position is that
there are no excuses for not returning the specimens to the country of
Kind regards,

Carlos A. Martínez Muñoz
Zoological Museum, Biodiversity Unit
FI-20014 University of Turku

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