Open Access Article

Title: Domestication matters: risk analyses necessary to prevent zoonotic pathogen spillover from international wildlife trade are constrained by terminology

Authors: Jonathan E. Kolby; William C. Pitt; Jamie K. Reaser

Addresses: Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630, USA ' The American Chestnut Foundation, Asheville, North Carolina, 28804, USA ' Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630, USA

Abstract: The US is a major importer of wildlife in terms of species diversity and quantity. The wildlife trade has the potential to facilitate the spread of zoonotic pathogens with pandemic-scale impacts. Regulatory policies crafted to prevent entry of zoonotic pathogens should be based on scientifically sound, standardised, comparable risk analyses. In this paper, we explore how the terms domesticated animals and wildlife are applied across US federal agencies, as well as the implications thereof. We demonstrate how use of these terms strays from their scientific meaning, confounds regulatory authorities and procedures, and thus reduces scientific integrity of US wildlife trade data available for zoonotic risk analyses. To better prevent importation of zoonotic pathogens, we recommend standardising federal terminology based on scientific principles, publication of an updated list of animals recognised as domesticated, and species-specific customs codes. Although these recommendations are US-directed, they are conceptually applicable to national biosecurity regulations worldwide.

Keywords: infectious disease; wildlife trade; domesticated animals; wildlife; risk analysis; zoonoses; LEMIS; Law Enforcement Management Information System; pathogens; terminology.

DOI: 10.1504/IJRAM.2023.139016

International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 2023 Vol.26 No.2, pp.95 - 117

Received: 01 Sep 2023
Accepted: 27 Mar 2024

Published online: 07 Jun 2024 *