Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Canada conservationist warns of 'cyber poaching
By Michel COMTE
Ottawa (AFP) Feb 25, 2017

Photographers, poachers and eco-tour operators are in the crosshairs of a Canadian conservationist who warns that tracking tags are being hacked and misused to harass and hunt endangered animals.

Steven Cooke, a biology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that the very tools used by scientists to study and protect animals and fish are being hijacked to do just the opposite.

Cooke, the Canada research chair of environmental science and biology, is the lead author of a paper published this week in the journal Conservation Biology.

The research paper cites the example of anglers in the US state of Minnesota who petitioned for access to data on northern pike movements, arguing that it should be publicly available because the research was publicly funded.

Australian authorities have used tags to locate and cull sharks while in India, attempts were made to hack the global positioning system (GPS) collars on endangered Bengal tigers in a case of "cyber poaching."

Cooke said that it is a new phenomenon and there is no data available to quantify this "troubling and unanticipated" problem.

But he provides a broad range of anecdotal evidence in his scholarly article.

Scientists are scheduled to meet in June in Australia to discuss the problem as well as potential fixes.

In the meantime, Cooke is calling for encryption and strict rules to secure data and limit the use of telemetry tools for non-research activities.

In an interview with AFP, Cooke noted that natural history, ecology, conservation and resource management have all benefited from the use of electronic tagging technology.

But if left unchecked, abuses could not only cause harm to animals, it could significantly hamper research.

"Just think about all the weird ways that people might try to exploit this technology," Cooke said.

The idea for this research came during a family vacation last summer to Banff National Park in Canada. It was then that he learned that the park authority had imposed a public ban on VHF radio receivers after photographers used telemetry to track tagged animals.

Canadian officials were concerned that the animals may be spooked, stressed or habituated to human interaction, which can alter their behavior and thus influence research findings, or lead to human-wildlife conflicts.

- Follow the ping -

The tags, Cooke explained, send out pings that can be tracked with a cheap handheld radio receiver.

"So you can stalk these animals in their natural environment, instead of waiting for them to wander over to you," he said.

Following one tagged animal could also lead poachers to others in its group.

Convincing scientists to restrict access to their data may prove problematic, Cooke acknowledged.

"It runs counter to the open data movement," he said, describing the widespread use of social media and other outreach to share findings.

In some cases, researchers who receive government grants may be obligated to disseminate the information.

Citing cases of US ranchers accused of trying to interfere with the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and divers in the Bahamas who removed satellite tags from sharks, Cooke also warned about so-called "telemetry terrorism."

There is potential for this if people oppose tagging. For example, some Canadian Inuit fear acoustic transmitters will scare away culturally important marine wildlife, and some park visitors have complained that tags distract from the "wilderness experience."

Where commercial interests conflict with conservation goals or where they overlap, there is also a risk.

After the publication of his article Monday, Cooke said he received a call about a safari company that has been tagging animals in order to find them to show guests, rather than waiting patiently near watering holes hoping for wildlife to show up.

Many eco-tour operators offer discounts if no wildlife is seen during a trip.

"There's a pretty strong financial motivation for them to consistently find animals," Cooke commented.

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
A world of storm and tempest
When the Earth Quakes

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Assault weapon fans in US are dealt legal setback
Washington (AFP) Feb 22, 2017
A US appeals court has ruled that military-style assault weapons are not protected under the US Constitution, dealing a blow to gun rights activists. "Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war," wrote Judge Robert King of Richmond, Virginia. The Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. Legal battles have raged for y ... read more

Berlusconi lunch on auction to help Italy quake victims

Hong Kong 'Snowden refugees' sought by Sri Lanka agents: lawyer

'Anybody could be a refugee': Ai Weiwei films global crisis

Brazilian troops withdraw from Rio ahead of carnival

Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made

New assembly method for ultra-conformable 'electronic tattoo' devices

Serendipity uncovers borophene's potential

Penn researchers are among the first to grow a versatile 2-dimensional material

Marine ecologist offers suggestions for achieving a strong, lasting 'blue economy'

Basking sharks seek out winter sun

Small ponds have outsized impact on global warming: study

Cash-strapped Rio de Janeiro to privatize water utility

Local weather impacts melting of one of Antarctica's fastest-retreating glaciers

New pathway for Greenland meltwater to reach ocean identified

Descent into a Frozen Underworld

How an Ice Age paradox could inform sea level rise predictions

Mumbai's original inhabitants fear world's tallest statue

Researchers unravel powerful tool in maize breeding

Widely accepted vision for agriculture may be inaccurate, misleading

Cultivating cool-for-cash-crop

An insight into a physical phenomenon that leads to earthquakes

Argentine researcher falls into Nicaragua volcano

Thousands flee as floodwaters threaten California city

Volcano Samalas mystery revealed

16 killed in three days of DR Congo clashes

I.Coast hosting bid to save its last chimpanzees

DR Congo investigating alleged army massacre video

A tonne of ivory, hacked into pieces, seized in Uganda

Tiny fibers open new windows into the brain

New evidence highlights maternal hierarchy of Pueblo Bonito

Flat-footed fighters

Advances in imaging could deepen knowledge of brain

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement