Using culturomics and social media data to characterize wildlife consumption

Juan Li*, Qi Hu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Wildlife provides food, medicine, clothing, and other necessities for humans, but overexploitation can disrupt the sustainability of wildlife resources and severely threaten global biodiversity. Understanding the characteristics of consumer behavior is helpful for wildlife managers and policy makers, but the traditional survey methods are laborious and time-consuming. In contrast, culturomics may more efficiently identify the features of wildlife consumption. As a case study of the culturomics approach, we examined tiger bone wine consumption in China based on social media and Baidu search engine data. Tiger bone wine is one of the most purchased tiger products; its consumption is closely related to tiger poaching, which greatly threatens wild tiger survival. We searched a popular social media website for the term “tiger bone wine” and focused on posts that were originally created from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2018. We filtered and classified posts related to the purchase, sale, or consumption of tiger bone wine and extracted information on providers, consumption motivations, year of production, and place of origin of the tiger bone wines based on the texts and photos of these posts. We found 756 posts related to tiger bone wine consumption, 113 of which mentioned providers of tiger bone wine, including friends (53%), elder relatives (37%), peer relatives (7%), and others (3%). Out of the 756 posts, 266 indicated the motivations of tiger bone wine consumption. Tiger bone wines were consumed as a tonic (34%), medicine (23%), game product (30%), and a symbol of wealth (28%). Some posts indicated ≥2 consumption motivations. These findings were consistent with the search queries from Baidu index. Such information could help develop targeted strategies for tiger conservation. The culturomics approach illustrated by our study is a rapid and cost-efficient way to characterize wildlife consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-459
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Panthera tigris
  • big data
  • search index
  • social media
  • tiger bone wine
  • tiger product
  • wildlife trade


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