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International science portals ‘blocklist’ Kashmir birder for faking Pallas’s Rosefinch sightings

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Srinagar: Two international science portals have “blocklisted” a birder from Kashmir for faking records and lying about Pallas’s Rosefinch bird sightings.

 ‘Ebird and iNaturalist’ have revealed that their data integrity was compromised by a certain contributor, who used “sophisticated forgery to create fraudulent media evidence”.

 

“Both portals have taken action and eBird/iNat will no longer display the Pallas’s Rosefinch record from India. As a policy, eBird has zero-tolerance in such cases and the user has been ‘blocklisted’ – which means that all previous and future contributions from this person shall not be available in any public outputs of eBird. iNat has suspended the user,” Birdcount India said in a Facebook post.

The post emphasized that although it may seem easy to get away with fraudulent/faked information, the value of open systems like eBird and iNat is that many thousands of eyes (and technical skills behind them) are looking at and using the information. “So fraud will be brought to light sooner or later,” it said.

A senior birder from Kashmir said the contributor from Central Kashmir had put up false records of Pallas’s Rosefinch bird species.

“Yesterday evening, we received the news that this person had put up false information and manipulated records of bird species, which are not found in India. He had been dodging the citizen portals for four months,” he said.

The member said, unfortunately, the new age birders are mostly after fame and more likes.

“Rather than genuinely learning about the bird species of Kashmir, they resort to such cheap name fame gimmicks,” he said

Wildlife Warden, Shopian, Intesar Suhail said it has brought a bad name to all the bid-watching groups in the valley.

“In this race of being in the news and earning attention, some people have resorted to unethical practices. This is not acceptable, and ethics need to be followed in letter and spirit,” Suhail said.

Much to the surprise of the birding community in Kashmir, the “morphed bird photograph of Pallas’s Rosefinch” also got featured in the calendar year 2021. It was created by a valley-based birdwatching group, Birds of Kashmir, and launched by senior officials of the Wildlife Department, Kashmir.  

“We have already issued a notice to birds of Kashmir group. Our job is to give a platform to people to share their data and pictures, and have no means to check the authenticity of the sightings,” Irfan Jeelani, founder of Birds of Kashmir group said.

He said the group has around 6000 members and can’t take responsibility for each and every member.

“It’s a matter of individual responsibility. We have initiated an inquiry, and accordingly, we will take an action,” Jeelani said.