Grey Literature

There was a brief discussion on this blog a few weeks ago about why scientists don’t pay more attention to the grey literature from us amateurs

I just had an interesting exchange with a group of small carnivore specialists who had stumbled on my trip report from Java.

They were interested in the pictures I had taken of very pale Small Toothed Palm Civets in Gunung Halimun National Park. It appears that the Small Toothed Palm Civet in Java is almost certainly a different species to that found elsewhere, and one for which very few recent records are available (perhaps because though the animals I saw were easy to see in a spotlight they are much less likely to be picked up on camera traps). So my pictures will contribute to a note they are writing on the status of this species. But, as proof that some of my records are greyer than others, they let me know that what I thought was a Javan Warty Pig was just the local flavour of Wild Boar. I couldn’t find any pictures of Javan Warty Pigs and had based my ID on a description from a field guide, so they sent some pictures through of a rather different looking beast.

I guess this all goes to show how important it is to take pictures whenever possible.



  • vladimir dinets

    Well, one obvious way to solve the problem is to publish your records in scientific journals. Of course, it takes some time and effort, but not too much. I had no difficulty publishing my 2009 Striped Rabbit sighting in Mammalia, even though we didn’t get a photo.

  • John Fox

    That is way cool, congrats on a mammal that’s not even in the books yet!

    Please tell us that someone else was running the spotlight while you took the photo. I have no idea how one person can get a photo of a spotlit animal, especially with a long lens. The few times I’ve tried holding the light in one hand and the camera in the other have been rather unsuccessful.

    I’ve never considered trying to publish something, as Vladimir suggests, but it obviously would get the animal into the record. Bears thinking about. Now I’ve gotta find out what a Striped Rabbit is 🙂


    • Vladimir Dinets

      Oh, they are so cool! There’s two; we got the Sumatran one.

      It is possible to spotlight and take photos at the same time if you (a) use a headlamp, but for most cameras a small headlamp would be insufficient to focus; (b) hold a medium-size LED flashlight firmly pressed to the side of the camera, so that they point in the same direction; or (c) use a connector like those used in underwater photography, but replace one of the external flashes with a spotlight.

    • vladimir dinets

      Striped rabbits are so cool! There are 2 spp.; we saw the Sumatran one.

      There are a few methods of spotlighting and taking photos at the same time. I usually hold a mid-size LED light pressed to the side of the camera, so that they point in the same direction. If you are after small stuff and your camera is really good at focusing at low light, or if you don’t mind using manual focusing, you can simply use a headlamp. For big spotlights, you can use bracket mount like those used in underwater photography, but it’s gonna be a bit heavy.

  • Jon Hall

    Someone else was holding the spotlight – its definitely easier. But Vladimir’s method of holding a small torch pressed to the lens can work too… as can putting a bigger spotlight on the ground and trying to position it with your feet. But if the animals are moving quickly forget it!.

    • Maurice Tijm


      Thanks for all your comments on my grey literature question. There is some truth in their argumentation of course. I found the regional differences in appareance in asian palm civets interesting and also a bit confusing. I wouldn’t be surprised when the Borneo Masked Palm Civet for example is a separate species too. Shame the pig you saw was not the warty pig! I am impressed by the number of spotlighting photos you have managed to make Jon. It does not make the spotlighting more fun though, this tinkering with camera and lamp. Not that I can practice a lot with spotlighting on nice mammals in the west of the Netherlands :-.

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