Biodiv Sci ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (5): 541-549.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020057

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A conceptual framework and definitions for the term “wild animal”

Yan Zeng1,2,Xiaoge Ping1,2,Fuwen Wei1,2,3,*()   

  1. 1 Endangered Species Scientific Commission, P. R. C., Beijing 100101
    2 Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    3 Center for Excellence in Animal Evolution and Genetics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223
  • Received:2020-02-25 Accepted:2020-04-27 Online:2020-05-20 Published:2020-04-27
  • Contact: Fuwen Wei


The term “wild animal” has different meanings not only in Chinese but in many languages all over the world. Here, we identify uses of the term “wild animal” through examining interpretations and applications in local, national, and international laws and language used in human controlled animal reproduction. We put forward a two-dimensional conceptual framework of “wild animals” that distinguishes 12 continuous states of animals from “wild” to “domesticated”. Animal groups that have not been artificially selected in the medium- and long-term were considered wild animals. Domesticated animals, whether or not they live under human control, such as domestic cats, dogs, poultry, livestock, and model animals or stray or feral were not considered “wild animals”. However, the management of some categories, such as tamed animals of wild species or exotic/invasive animals needs to base on ecological safety, species conservation, and legislative objectives. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife shall apply to endangered animal species threatened by humans, whether they were found in the wild or under human control condition. For the management of other states of “wild animals”, existing laws should be strictly implemented, and new laws should be enacted with genetic resources, zoonotic diseases, animal welfare, and ecological safety in mind. We additionally make specific recommendations for the definition of “wild animal” for use under the Law on the Protection of Wildlife.

Key words: wild animal, two-dimensional conceptual framework, wildlife protection law