Oxford University and Tel Aviv University scientists have ranked ten of the world’s most popular reptiles in their study published on May 4 in the journal Biological Conservation. Using data from Wikipedia, the Komodo dragon was the most popular reptile in 2014, taking in 3.6 percent or 2,014,932 Wikipedia page views.
Overall, there is a total of 55.5 million page views of all 10,002 species of reptiles. The second most popular is the black mamba followed by the saltwater crocodile, king cobra, gila monster, and cottonmouth viper.
At the seventh place is the American alligator, then leatherback sea turtle, Nile crocodile, and the last is the boa constrictor. Overall, the researchers observed that the most popular reptiles are venomous, big, endangered or threatening to humans and inspires imagination.
Popularity may be influenced by the users’ location. In Japan, for example, the most popular reptile is the Japanese viper while the green iguana is the most popular species among Spanish-speaking regions.
The researchers point out that the findings can have implications for strategies to conserve these animals. The problem is, popularity may affect our conservation efforts. Many believe that the most popular reptiles should be given priority while the less popular ones should be least attended to. If conservation efforts are based on popularity, only 67 percent of the 88 reptile species would be saved from extinction.
“Among more traditional conservationists, there may be the view that we shouldn’t incorporate cultural values into decisions about policy or funding,” adds Oxford University’s John C. Mittermeier. “However, the fact is that whether we like it or not, we already do – how much funding do lions get compared with, for example, a species of small snail that doesn’t even have an English name, even if the snail is more at risk of going extinct? The biases are already there.”
The researchers urge equal attention and prioritisation of all animal species. As of now, the team is planning to study all animal and plant species. Although this time, they may consider using newspaper archives, social media data and other sources besides Wikipedia for their research.