AboutZoos, Since 2008


Clas­si­fi­ca­tion of feline species revisited

pub­lished 29 Jan­u­ary 2012 | mod­i­fied 29 Jan­u­ary 2012

Since the offi­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tion of feline species was intro­duced based on Lin­naeus’ con­ven­tion, peo­ple have debated the proper sci­en­tific names of cat species and their num­ber, 36 or 37 cat species?

Proper clas­si­fi­ca­tion is, on the one hand, merely a sci­en­tific dis­cus­sion and some­times requires arbi­trary deci­sions and com­pro­mises when the knowl­edge is incom­plete. On the other hand is this clas­si­fi­ca­tion of impor­tance because of its impli­ca­tions. Because (inter)national leg­is­la­tion and treaties on nature con­ser­va­tion deal with (sub)species rather than with pop­u­la­tions, the true bio­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion units. There­fore, a glob­ally recog­nised and accepted clas­si­fi­ca­tion of species, sup­ports the dif­fi­cult task of eval­u­at­ing the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of these species, as it is done by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species.

To end the ongo­ing debate on clas­si­fi­ca­tion, and to be the main ref­er­ence and focal point for cat con­ser­va­tion, together with the IUCN Red List, the IUCN Cat Spe­cial­ist Group estab­lished a Cat Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Task Force (CCTF). The main pur­pose of the CCTF is to pro­pose an updated and prac­ti­cal clas­si­fi­ca­tion of feline species, with con­sen­sus amongst the best sci­en­tists and experts of the Fel­i­dae. The start­ing point for the new clas­si­fi­ca­tion will be the Now­ell and Jackson’s ver­sion of 1996 and the Red List ver­sion of 2008, which looks more or less like the one to be found here. In addi­tion, though minor, a sug­ges­tion has been made to dis­con­tinue the use of the com­mon name ‘kod­kod’ for the Leop­ar­dus guigna in this new clas­si­fi­ca­tion. As in dif­fer­ent South-​American tribal lan­guages the name kod­kod refers to a dif­fer­ent cat species it can only lead to con­fu­sion. There­fore, Jim Sander­son sug­gested in the newslet­ter of the IUCN Cat Spe­cial­ist Group of spring 2010 to only use the com­mon name ‘guigna’ for the Leop­ar­dus guigna.

(Sources: CAT­news 55, autumn 2011; CAT­news 52, spring 2010)

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