Ever wanted to have your name – or brand name – etched in the annals of history? Well, now you can… if you have enough cash.
In early December, American non-profit Rainforest Trust held an auction to sell the rights to name 12 recently discovered plant and animal species in Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.
Rainforest Trust is a conservationist organisation that purchases threatened rainforests in order to save endangered wildlife. The company holds Charity Navigator’s highest rating for transparency and accountability and claims to have already helped protect over 19 million acres of forest around the world.
The auction, which started at A$13,000 for each species, allowed the winners to slap any name they want on the new flora and fauna. All proceeds from the auction will go to buying the land where the new species live in an attempt to save them from extinction.
The auction’s most popular critter was a slimy, blue-grey, legless amphibian discovered in Panama. The right to name the little fellow went for A$42,000.
Someone also coughed up A$35,000 to name a rare frog found in the Colombian rainforest that sports a leopard-like pattern.
The auction’s least favoured animal was a red ant from Ecuador that is reminiscent of Predator. This baddie not only has a spring-loaded mandible capable of opening 180 degrees, its jaw functions as a catapult to launch itself away from danger.
Normally when somebody discovers a new species of plant or animal, the finding is first published in a peer-reviewed paper and needs to have proper evidence and data behind it.
After that process, the person who finds the new species gets to name their discovery according to the rules established by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature for animals, and the International Botanical Congress when it comes to algae, plants and fungi.
Rainforest Trust is not the first to hold a species-naming auction. The Wildlife Conservation Society auctioned off the rights to name a monkey discovered in Bolivia in 2005. The auction was won with a bid of A$901,000 by Golden Palace, an internet casino company.
Many scientists disagree with the practice. They see it as an example of cultural appropriation, and fear it will turn taxonomy and the search for new species into a problematic commercial arena.
The Chief Executive of Rainforest Trust, Paul Salaman, defends the initiative. He told The New York Times that an artificial name isn’t a concern – the problem is that they are endangered by climate change and industrial practices.
“The name itself doesn’t really matter,” said Salaman. “The key is the funding to save the species.”