Primate Range Finder

Inspired in part by this project, I wondered if you could get an accurate picture of the ranges of wild primates by looking at the geographic distribution of their geotagged photos on Flickr.

Online Version:

The summary below is about the first version of this project, which made use of a local Python script and rendered the maps with R. A fancier, online version is available here, and displays the images graphically using Google Maps JavaScript API and the PHP Flickr API.

Method:

I decided to write the code in Python and make use of Beej's Python Flickr API library to access the functionality of Flickr. The program reads a list of queries from an input file, which for my purposes was full of scientific and common names for primates. It then searches Flickr with those terms and returns the latitude and longitude of all geotagged photos that match. It also notes whether the photo has the word "zoo" in any of its text, in an effort to distinguish between photos of wild and captive animals.

The next step is to render the points on a map of the world, for which I used the R packages ggplot2 and maps. The image is saved as a PNG with orange dots representing photos that presumably took place in a zoo, and green dots representing all other photos. Not all searches resulted in many geotagged photos, but I've posted the interesting ones below. There is fuzziness in the search. Either that or Canadians are keeping a Neandertal in a zoo in British Columbia.

Results: