In several countries, including South Africa, it is not legal to collect or keep baboon spiders without permits to do so. This is one of the reasons that the Baboon Spider Atlas is focussing on gathering photographic records of spiders in the wild. Conservation authorities will not issue permits to collect spiders for research purposes to members of the general public, and there is a general embargo on issuing permits for personal or commerical purposes. When conducting your atlasing activities please resist the temptation to take spiders home to keep as pets.
In nature reserves and national parks permits are required for any kind of surveying, sampling, or atlasing activity. Obviously if a spider wanders into camp or you see one while on foot you can photograph it, but you cannot actively search for burrows by turning rocks, or lure spiders out of their burrows, as this consitutes interference with the wildlife and the environment. We strongly urge against active atlasing activities within nature reserves or national parks without the proper documentation in place. Please also make sure that when atlasing on private land or private nature reserves, that you obtain permission from the landowner or manager beforehand. This is an important courtesy towards the landowners, and is also important for maintaining the image of the Baboon Spider Atlas project.
Some people might be concerned that they will be breaking the law by atlasing baboon spiders. Unfortunately the complexities of the legislation mean that there are some grey areas. However, the practicalities of law enforcement must be considered, and the question is what will constitute a prosecutable offence. Unless you have spiders in containers in your possession without the necessary permits, or search for spiders in protected areas, it is very unlikely that you will be liable for any kind of prosecution.
To summarise, unless you have permits don't collect spiders and keep them in your possession. Also, don't search for spiders in nature reserves or national parks by turning rocks, digging holes, or otherwise disturbing the environment. Other than that you should have no problems carrying out your atlasing activities. There have not been any cases of legal issues with people submitting photographic records to any of the ADU Virtual Museums.
Atlasing, the process of finding and photographing animals that interest you, and uploading your records to atlas databases, is great fun and becomes an obsessive pastime for many people. Here are some suggestions for software and mobile device apps that will make your experience more rewarding and enjoyable, and will help you be a better atlaser.
Once you start building large library of digital images it can become difficult to manage all those images, and to find the specific ones you want at short notice. Picasa and Adobe Lightroom offer great image management facilities and are worth looking into. Probably one of the most powerful features is that you can tag images with a number of tags, such as locality or species names, and then later search for images with specific tags. Both packages also offer geotagging facilities, where you can add coordinate data to the images and plot them on a map. Together with the filtering capabilities, you can quickly produce point maps of your records for particular species or genera. Picasa is freely available and is intended mostly for image management with limited image editing facilities, while Lightroom is paid software and has good management and editing capabilities.
Essential for any atlaser are good mapping, GPS and navigation tools. Google Maps and Google Earth provide excellent tools for planning expeditions. You can find potentially interesting habitats using satellite imagery, roads and tracks to areas you want to visit. You can mark potential points to visit and have them available later on your mobile devices, or you can export KML files for use with GPS apps in the field. GPS Kit is an excellent GPS app for the iPhone and iPad. It operates very much like a handheld GPS but has excellent additional functionility, like Google Maps backgrounds, and easy text entry. You can store waypoints in groups (eg for a particular trip or holiday) and it gives basic compass navigation to waypoints which is very useful for finding sites, or even tracking back to individual spider burrows. GPS Essentials offers similar functionality to GPS Kit for Android device users.
A large number of note taking apps are available for mobile devices and potential users should do a little homework to decide which suits their needs best. One that is worth looking at is Evernote. It allows you to organise your notes into notebooks so that you can keep your spider records separate from your other notes, or keep notes from particular trips or projects together. One of the nicer features is that it automatically backs up your notes to the cloud, so you don't have to worry about losing your data if something happens to your device. Just note that you still need to keep coordinates for the sites you visit in your GPS app. Even though Evernote does record coordinates it hides them from you if it can use a place name instead.
We are currently working on an app that will allow you to upload images to the virtual museums directly from your mobile device. Watch this space.