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)