A data-driven story about the wild otter trade. For this piece, we worked with Wild Otters, a non-governmental organisation that is a member of the IUCN SSC Otter Specialist Group. We also worked with Julia Janicki, an experienced data-story developer and environmentalist.
In Singapore, our wild otters are popular for being charismatic and adorable, but many locals aren’t fully aware of the threats they face. Asia contains the biggest market for otters—they are killed and traded in large numbers across the region as pets and for their body parts.
For decades, many conservation groups and wildlife protection organisations have been working to bring more awareness and halt the illegal animal trade, and since wild otters are one of the most traded animals, we thought a story that focuses on their plight would showcase the severity of the situation.
We extracted the data for the species that are traded, the amount of otters traded each year, the main reasons they are traded for, as well as how the online obsession with cute animals have put these otters—and other charismatic animals—at risk. The data was then inserted and converted into this interactive data story to make the topic and information easily digestible for our readers, as well as to let them know how they can help.
For the two maps, we used Mapbox studio to style the base map, and Mapbox GL JS (JS library) to render the Mapbox map onto the web page, as well as add points to the map and add filtering functionalities. Arcs between points on the map were calculated using Turf (JS library).
What was the hardest part of this project?
The most difficult part about this data story was coordinating with all the partners involved. It was crucial that we communicated often because the representatives at Wild Otters are experts in the topic, and Julia Janicki is well-experienced in coding environment-related data stories.
As Kontinentalist has always been an advocate for conservation and wildlife protection, this was an important topic for us to write about. We also made sure to consult experts in the field to ensure that our story was accurate and insightful.
What can others learn from this project?
The use of interactive data visualisations help to communicate important data to our readers. We also used maps to showcase spatial data, since it was important to showcase the scale of trade across countries and regions.
We also used eye-catching illustrations to ensure that our readers will stay involved in the piece throughout, as the goal was to ensure that the reader reads the last section, which contains the call-to-action.
As much as possible, we make the effort to partner up with experts. Their insights often make for a much more insightful story, and sometimes they are able to provide datasets that we wouldn’t be able to easily find on our own.