Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

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

Mike J. Daniels and Laurie Corbett

Wildlife Research 30(3) 213 - 218
Published: 25 July 2003


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.


© CSIRO 2003

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