Protecting Photographs Prevents Poaching

Sarracenia flava and associates.
Photo by Lila Uzzell

In this day and age, social media absorbs just about everything and everyone. I mean, why wouldn’t it? It’s such a conveniently fast, educational, and artistic way to share ideas and information with others. Even within small circles of botanists, horticulturalists, conservationists, and plant enthusiasts alike, we all want to share our excitement and new plant findings with others. 

Sharing photos of plants via social media is positive, and also greatly needed. In fact, we should all post more about the plants we know and love in an effort to teach others and cure plant blindness. However, before tapping that “Share” button, one detail should be considered: check to see if your photo is geotagged. This information, along with extra material is known as “metadata”. 

Many people do not realize it, but most devices allow location services to use GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspots, and cell phone tower locations to determine your approximate location while using your device. Even while taking photos. Once a photo is posted on social media, any metadata imbedded within it gets uploaded too. 

Today, plant poachers mine social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram to access information about plants and their locations. Plant poaching is an increasing threat for protected plants across state, federal, and private lands nationally. 

So, please do post your experiences with plants and do include your beautiful photos- but please pause on your next plant post, and make sure that your photo settings are set to not show GPS coordinates before sharing your next plant photograph. Plants are, for the most part, stationary. And we would like to keep them thriving in their native habitats for generations to come. 

To learn how to change your settings for posting photos on your phone, please follow these guidelines below:

  • A simple tip to removing geotagged information from your posts is to take screenshots of the photos you want to post after you have left a field site and are far, far away from where you visited the plant(s). 
  • To completely remove photo locations on your device:

Cell Phone


Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera > Never

” > Instagram > Never

” > Facebook > Never

” > Twitter > Never

Or, you can change this to “ask next time” to save for when you do post photos of plants.


Select the Camera app from the “all apps” section > tap left menu on the display > Click Settings > toggle “Save location” to off



Right Click on your photo > Properties > Details > Remove Properties and Personal Information 


From Preview: Tools > Show Inspector > hit the (i) for More info > GPS >  click “Remove Location Info”

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