Redefining introgressed protected mammals: when is a wildcat a wild cat and a dingo a wild dog?

Interbreeding between protected species and their domestic forms presents a conundrum for wildlife managers and legislators with respect to both defining the taxa concerned and enacting or enforcing conservation measures. Recent research on two species geographically distant but with highly analogous histories, the wildcat (Felis silvestris) in Scotland and the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) in Australia, illustrates the challenges faced. Introgression has left the contemporary wild form of both species difficult to distinguish from many of their domesticated forms. Furthermore, historical definitions, and the protective legislation based on them, have been rendered obsolete by subsequent anthropogenic environmental change. We argue that a new approach is necessary for defining mammalian species in the face of introgression with their domestic forms and environmental change, including persecution. Protecting animals for where and how they live, and for their cultural or ecosystem function value rather than focusing on their appearance, offers the best solution for maintaining their conservation status.

Author Daniels, M. J. and Corbett, L.
Year 2003
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 30
Number 3
Pages 213-218
Region Australia - national