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Question 4.

In reference to establishing the EED, we have stated that evidence of observation, identification, and date of collection of the specimen should be "reliable." We defined "reliable source" as someone with an intimate knowledge of the taxon in question. Do you consider this to be sufficiently precise and, if not, how would you change it?

  • Comments by CREO Chairman, Ian Harrison, have been added to some of the responses below -- in underlined text.

    Amphibians Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: be wary that the further back in time one goes, the less reliable become the "reliable sources" because very different techniques are now used to identify species.

    Comment 2: this is a sensible first step but requires practical testing.

    Comment 3: everything hinges on reliability, and any assessment of reliability is ultimately made according to personal experience. The best precision comes from someone with an intimate knowledge of the taxon.

    Comment 4: The manner in which a record is made is at least as important as the purported knowledge of the individual; for example, newspaper? peer-reviewed journal?. The ICZN lays down minimum criteria for valid publication that might be worth using.

    Birds Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: even unreliable evidence should be mentioned, but explicitly stated as such; that evidence is then available for further testing. (This could be controversial to the "unreliable" people providing the evidence, however it would be good to note if it could be done in a way that was not offensive to those providing the information. If it is the only information available, then the species should not be categorized as extinct but placed in an unclassified category, like the Category U used for fishes.)

    Comment 2: this depends on context. There are examples where people have an intimate knowledge of the evidence but not the taxon (e g., dodo). In these cases, people can verify that the animal is gone, even if they do not know its taxonomy.

    Comment 3: intimate knowledge, is difficult to judge; and so it is difficult to set criteria to define what represents ‘intimate knowledge.’ For example, does the individual have to be educated? A settler on Raoul Island had an intimate knowledge of the megapode — he ate its eggs and chicks; but the record must remain doubtful until specimens are found. People with "intimate knowledge" can still be mistaken. ‘Repeatable evidence’ is preferable, i.e. specimens, photography, sound recording etc.

    Comment 4: accepts the concept of a reliable source being somebody who has an intimate knowledge of the taxon in question.

    Coleoptera Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: experienced naturalists are invaluable, and this should be backed up by other equally reliable information, published or from collections.

    Comment 2: a reliable source should be someone with a track record in describing species in the same or a closely related taxon.

    Comment 3: a "reliable source" should be a reputable scientist, or well-published amateur, someone who has knowledge of taxa by studying types and collections, not catalogues and picture books.

    Comment 4: this definition of reliable source seems the best we can get.

    Fishes Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: This definition of a reliable source is probably the only way of confirming information — however, sometimes it is not possible to find somebody with an intimate knowledge of the taxon (or their opinion on the taxon is not definite. Wherever possible, there should be more than one ‘reliable source’ to confirm the data.

    Comment 2: this is acceptable.

    Comment 3: 'someone with intimate knowledge' would have to be ascertained and verified through peer evaluation. 'Reliable sources' can indeed vary in their degree of reliability. Otherwise this is a sensible first step but requires practical testing. (Peer evaluation of peoples' reliability is a tricky point and would have to be very general otherwise it appears highly judgemental. ).

    Mammals Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: this is OK so long as a "reliable source" is not just restricted to scientists but also includes others who may know the fauna well, for example, Australian aborigines.

    Comment 2: the person need not know the group intimately but should be a zoologist, (i.e. they should have some zoological skill so that their opinion can be assumed to be reliable).

    Comment 3: this is sufficiently precise if the reliable source is somebody from the list of experts associated with the Panel.

    Molluscs Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: There would have to be a strong indication that the person(s) searching for the species and reporting its absence have competence in the group. The same applies within groups - people who are specialized in collecting particular taxa are the ones who are required to successfully find them (for example, somebody working on terrestrial species may not be best suited for collecting and identifying aquatic species).

    Reptiles Advisory Panel

    Comment 1: this might be modified to include persons with a detailed knowledge of the fauna (including the taxa in question) of the region in which the taxa in question occurs. This might admit information from local naturalists without specific taxonomic or systematic knowledge of a group. (Similar comments have been made for mammals, referring to the knowledge of indigenous people for reporting on changes in their local fauna. Local peoples or naturalists provide potentially valuable sources of data provided that their information includes reference to diagnostic characteristics that leave no doubt as to the correct identification of the species).

    Comment 2: this definition is acceptable.

    Comment 3: this definition is acceptable.

    Comment 4: evidence of observation, identification, and date of collection of specimens should be reliable.

    Comment 5: this definition seems reasonable.

    Summary comments:

    (The definition of a reliable source must be refined to show that the source can indicate that he/she can reliably identify the species and diagnose it from other similar species, so that we are sure that he/she is matching the evidence to the right animal. The evidence should also be independently verified if at all possible. Some Panelists have indicated that a reliable source should be more than one person — this is particularly important for observational evidence that is not repeatable; for example, a reported sighting, or acoustic evidence should, ideally be witnessed by more than one person if there is no supporting photographic or audio-recorded evidence. Having more than one opinion would, in these circumstances, be good for corroboration — but it may not often be possible.)