Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Name of new monkey species being auctioned!

name me...please.

These days, if you're willing to pay the asking price, you can put your name on just about anything - a basketball arena, a hospital wing, perhaps even a subway station.

How humdrum.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, on the other hand, is offering some true naming-rights excitement. The group will be auctioning off the chance to name a new species of monkey.

The animal, a variety of titi monkey of the genus Callicebus, was first spotted in 2000 in Madidi National Park in Bolivia. Observations made since then convinced the discoverers - Dr. Robert Wallace of the conservation society; Humberto Gomez, a Bolivian biologist; and two Conservation Society volunteers, Annika and Adam Felton - that the monkey was a new species. Their paper describing the animal has been accepted by taxonomic authorities.

Ordinarily, the person who discovers a species has the right to name it, and species have often been named for people who supported research or financed an expedition. In this case, Dr. Wallace said in a telephone interview from Bolivia, the discoverers decided to seek a benefactor after the fact, in an online auction that would both raise interest in Madidi park and funds to help manage it.

"We have no idea how much money this can generate," he said of the auction, which begins Feb. 24 at www.charityfolks.com. "We're looking for someone who wants to make a lasting contribution to one of the most important protected areas of the world."

Madidi National Park, which covers about 7,300 square miles in northwestern Bolivia, is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. Yet it is threatened by encroaching agriculture and road building, which lead to human settlement. Proceeds of the auction will go to a Bolivian conservation foundation and the country's park service to carry out a management plan for the area.

The monkey is about 15 inches high, weighs about 2 pounds and has gold, orange and burgundy colors in its fur. "In general it's quite sort of fluffy looking," Dr. Wallace said.

Whoever wins the auction will have to follow the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, but the code offers a lot of leeway. "You can't name it something that's openly offensive," he said. "Other than that, you can name it what you want."

Story here.

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