Get access

English names for a world list of mammals, exemplified by species of Indochina



1. The lack of a globally accepted list of English-language names for mammal species leads to various problems stemming from the reduced ability to communicate unambiguously. This impacts directly on their conservation. We use the larger mammals of Indochina to exemplify the use of an explicit set of principles designed to provide each species with a unique and non-misleading (or at least minimally so) English name.

2. For most species, a suitable name is already in use, sometimes generally so. For species for which multiple names are in use, standardization would consist of adopting the most suitable name. Only for a very few species are all extant names so unsuitable that a neologism should be coined. One species, Panthera pardus, presents potentially insoluble problems.

3. Name standardization among the world's birds has generated some controversy, but this has not led to abandonment of the process. Much can be learned by those developing a similar process for mammals, through studying the bird-naming process. Progress can be advanced by detractors indicating whether they oppose standardization per se, the principles used or the names resulting from application of the principles. Also, proponents of standardization should always emphasize that the purpose of the process is to produce a list available for those who want to use it, not to produce a binding selection that must be used in all circumstances.