Modern conservation operates at the nexus of biological and social influences. While the importance of social and cultural factors is often mentioned, defining, measuring and comparing these factors remains a significant challenge. Here, we explore a novel method to quantify cultural interest in all extant reptile species using Wikipedia — a large, open-access online encyclopaedia. We analysed all page views of reptile species viewed during 2014 in all of Wikipedia's language editions. We compared species' page view numbers across languages and in relationship to their spatial distribution, phylogeny, threat status and various other biological attributes. We found that the three species with most page views are shared across major language editions, beyond these, page view ranks of species tend to be specific to particular language editions. Interest within a language is mostly focused on reptiles found in the regions where the language is spoken. Overall, interest is greater for reptiles that are venomous, endangered, widely distributed, larger and that have been described earlier. However, within individual reptile families not all the above factors predict page views. Most families contain at least one species in the top 5% of page views, but 29 families (with 1,450 species) have no ‘high interest species’ in them. Overall, our analyses elucidate novel patterns of human interests in nature over large geographical, cultural and taxonomic spectra using big-data techniques. Such approaches hold much promise for incorporating social perceptions in future conservation practices.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd
- Big data
- Flagship species
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation