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Monkey business
The right to name a new species of monkey is being auctioned off on-line, starting this week.
February 22, 2005: 5:19 PM EST
By Les Christie, CNN/Money staff writer
Name that monkey
Name that monkey

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - How much would you pay to name a new species? It's a mammal. Now how much would you pay? Not only is it a mammal, it's a monkey, a cute, furry little primate from the Bolivian rainforest.

Now how much would you pay?

This is not a hypothetical question. Starting February 24th, the Wildlife Conservation Society (the Bronx Zoo) will auction off the right to name a new species of monkey on the Web site of Charity Folks, a leading online charity auction venue.

Robert Wallace, a scientist/researcher with WCS, and his colleagues Humberto Gomez, Adam Felton, and Annika Felton, discovered the species on the edges of the Madidi protected area in northwestern Bolivia, a region of lowland forest, cloud forest, savanna, and mountains. They submitted a manuscript, which has been accepted by taxonomic authorities, proposing that the monkey be recognized as a new species.

As its discoverers, Wallace et al. have the right to name the monkey, but they decided to auction off that right and dedicate the proceeds to the protection of the monkey's habitat.

The auction winner's choice will go into the books permanently. Wallace says, "There are few restrictions on the name, but it can't be offensive."

The species name is added to the genus name, which is callicebus. For example, if CNN/Money's parent company made the top bid, it could christen the monkey callicebus timewarnersi (Time Warner's titi), or callicebus timewarnerus (Time Warner titi).

But may a corporation enter the naming sweepstakes? It's not like a monkey is a sports arena. "It's a possibility," says Wallace. "We'd have to look at that carefully."

Okay, how much?

Wallace says he has no idea how much the naming auction will bring in.

"It's never been done before," he says. He hasn't even posted a reserve price. He hopes the amount will be substantial, because he figures that to properly protect the Madidi area requires about $550,000 a year; to that end, WCS is trying to help build up a trust fund of about $10 million.

Preserving the region will not only serve the monkey well, it will protect habitat for jaguars, giant otters, condors and many other plants and animals, many of which are rare or endangered.

The auction is not confined to right of choosing a monkey moniker. Other items up for bid for the benefit of conservation projects around the world include a 12-day safari with WCS researchers in Tanzania, as well as a single day of "fabulous shopping" with fashion guru Phillip Bloch, "who dresses some of Hollywood's top stars including Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Jessica Simpson, Sandra Bullock, Kim Cattrall, Jim Carrey, and Will Smith," according to the Charity Folks Web site.

But it's the monkey naming that's the star attraction. Once chosen, that name will live on in science annals forever, conferring on a lucky someone an immortality few men or women will ever achieve.

Hmmm . . . callicebus christiesi; I like the sound of that.  Top of page


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