Pixelated Photo Project Illustrates Just How Close We Are To Losing These Endangered Species

A picture is worth 1,000 words, but this compelling imagery is illustrating just how close we are to losing species whose numbers fall far short of that marker.

Back in 2006, the World Wildlife Fund sponsored a campaign called WWF Japan – Population by pixel by Hakuhodo C&D / Tokyo. Creative directors Nami Hoshino, Yoshiyuki Mikami, and designer Kazuhiro Mochizuki took pictures of threatened or endangered species and pixelated them to a resolution that matched their remaining numbers. A similar collection of images has recently been published on Reddit, this time by user JJSmooth44.

JJSmooth44 claims he, “did it as a programming challenge,” but the results are no less compelling than they were more than a decade ago. The Redditor used the Python language to obscure the images through pixelation, matching the number of pixels with the number of that species still thought to be alive. He took the original photos from the Animal Planet endangered animals list.

“The code is very gross,” he says. “I only worried about the final product and not the readability/niceness of the code.”

Check out 22 of these thought provoking works below.

African Wild Dog

Source: JJSmooth44

About 3000 to 5500 African wild dogs are still alive on planet earth.

Amur Leopard

Source: JJSmooth44

Only about about 60 Amur leopards remain alive in the wild.

Amur Tiger

Source: JJSmooth44

About 450 Amur tigers are alive in the wild.

Asian Elephant

Source: JJSmooth44

Between 40000 and 50000 Asian elephants are estimated alive.

Bengal Tiger

Source: JJSmooth44

The Bengal tiger’s population is estimated at about 2,500, and dropping.

Black Footed Ferret

Source: JJSmooth44

The Black Footed Ferret is perilously close to extinction, with only about 300 alive.

Black Rhino

Source: JJSmooth44

Only about 5,000 black rhinos remain alive in the wild.

Blue Whale

Source: JJSmooth44

The Blue whales experienced a slight comeback, but only about 10,000 to 25,000 are alive today.


Source: JJSmooth44

Deforestation and habitat destruction have decimated the once-thriving Bonobo population, now estimated between 10,000 and 50,000.

Bornean Orangutan

Source: JJSmooth44

If rainforest clear-cutting is not reined in soon, the Bornean Orangutan may soon go extinct. Only about 45,000 to 69,000 remain alive today.

Borneo Pygmy Elephant

Source: JJSmooth44

Only 1,500 Borneo Pygmy elephants are estimated to remain alive on earth.


Source: JJSmooth44

The chimpanzee population has been steadily decreasing as logging and deforestation spreads in equatorial countries. Between 172,700 and 299,700 are estimated to remain alive today.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla

Source: JJSmooth44

Only about 17,000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas remain alive in the wild.

Fin Whale

Source: JJSmooth44

Overfishing has driven the Fin whale population down to between 50,000 and 90,000.

Galapagos Penguin

Source: JJSmooth44

Only about 2,000 Galapagos penguins remain alive today. The fate of this species is all but sealed.

Giant Panda

Source: JJSmooth44

With just 1,864 giant pandas estimated to remain, this species may never recover.

Green Sea Turtle

Source: JJSmooth44

The green sea turtle population now numbers between 3,000 and 5,500 in the wild.

Hectors Dolphin

Source: JJSmooth44

An estimated 7,000 Hectors dolphins remain alive today.

Indian Elephant

Source: JJSmooth44

There are fewer than 25,000 Indian elephants alive today, with lower estimates indicating their population may be closer to 20,000.

Indochinese Tiger

Source: JJSmooth44

With somewhere between 600 and 650 Indochinese tigers alive in the wild, this species may be functionally extinct.

Indus River Dolphin

Source: JJSmooth44

The Indus River Dolphin is now one of the rarest dolphins on the planet, with only about 1,100 alive in the wild.

Javan Rhino

Source: JJSmooth44

With only 60 Javan rhinos alive in the wild, there may be little hope for this species to avoid extinction.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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