museum 'poachers'

James Kruse fnjjk1 at
Tue Apr 9 22:01:18 EDT 2002

on 4/9/02 3:30 PM, Martin Bailey at cmbb at wrote:

> Terribly sorry but I must  persist. (A sure sign of paranoia!)

I don't mind, and as far as paranoia goes, I was only keeping with some of
the current sentiments expressed by other recent posters (Neil). Like most
paranoia, there is always a faint ring of truth somewhere.
> I do know of a case where a bird that was not suppose to be here was sighted
> on a pond not too far out of town.  The boys from the museum, with guns in
> hand, scurried out to collect the species.  They missed.

(snip and paste)
> While I will agree with you that the second example that I present is an
> aberration, the first one is not.
There are always bad people and various examples of what bad things they
have done in every profession. The fact that something occasionally does
happen does not necessarily make it the general practice of an entire
profession. I would disagree that this incident is not an aberration,
although it may not be an aberration with those particular individuals.

> Far more saddening was the case of a museum staff member who traded in
> mammal skulls. (I hope that you can appreciate that I am not willing to give
> actual details.)
> The professional hobbiest was convicted for dealing in  endangered species.
> (Rare collectors' items, those skulls.)  However, his union stood behind him
> against management's "attempts"  to fire  him.  He still works at the same
> museum.

Ah, here we have a qualifier - "endangered species". Bad person, bad result,
and I am sorry to hear about it. Now if they were vole skulls of a
non-endangered species that were being traded, I am not so sure you'd have a
problem with it. Maybe I am wrong here.

> So I pose this question to you:  Why must you add to your collection
> specimens that you will never get enough examples of to make meaningful
> comparative analyses? Where the addition of that specimen to your collection
> will not advance our knowledge of the species in question.

At the time of the collecting, you don't know that the specimen you
collected yesterday will never be collected by you again. That I may 'never
get enough samples to make comparative analyses' is a hind-sight thought
that I do not have the benefit of. Maybe the next curator will find more and
he/she will be really happy that I picked up the couple that I did.

Secondly, vouchers of stray occurrences can be very valuable, especially as
certain patterns of straying becomes evidence of habitat change due to
things like global warming. That being said, I _do_ think that certain high
profile straying events should be documented with pictures and notebook
entries. Using one's brain and sense of prudence is a good thing. After all,
we are all ambassadors to some degree, like it or not.


James J. Kruse, Ph.D.
Curator of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive
Fairbanks, AK, USA 99775-6960
tel 907.474.5579
fax 907.474.1987


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