Conservationists auction off frog naming rights/Associated Press
A girl has to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, but how to interpret the gesture when the prince makes a bid to name a frog in her honor?
That’s one possible scenario, thanks to a new online auction allowing a high bidder to win the right to name a frog species.
Amphibian Ark, an international collaboration of conservationists working to save frogs, is organizing the effort to auction the naming rights to five species of frogs on the Internet – one frog a month for five months.
Profits will fund efforts to protect frogs at a crucial time, said Kevin Zippel, Amphibian Ark’s program director. Amphibians have been on the planet for 360 million years, but based on recent science, “This is the greatest extinction rate they’ve ever faced,” he said.
The first frog that a member of the public can name – for the right price – is from Ecuador, a member of the Osornophryne genus.
The frog was discovered in 1997, and there are no living members of the species in captivity, but whoever wins the online auction will be able to determine its species name. The profits raised will go to fund work to save frogs in Ecuador. Details on the other four frogs, and where the money will go to protect frogs, have not yet been released.
The hope is that auctioning off the naming rights could raise between $100,000 to $200,000 for each of the five frogs.
The estimate is based on prices paid in the past in separate efforts for the rights to name animals, like the $650,000 an Internet casino paid in 2005 to name a monkey species for the benefit of a national park in Bolivia. Its moniker? GoldenPalace.com.
“The potential to raise money to save these species outweighed any criticism we might get that we’re selling out,” said Zippel, speaking by telephone from Auburn, N.Y., where he lives.
A description of the new species will be published in a professional journal, and its scientific name will need to conform to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Zippel offered an example: If Donald Trump were a winning bidder of a frog from Rana genus, it wouldn’t be named “Rana Donald Trump,” but “Rana donaldtrumpi.”
The Internet naming contest at http://www.amphibianark.org/ is just one of many ways Amphibian Ark is trying to raise awareness about the plight of the frog. The group has dubbed 2008 the “Year of the Frog,” with zoos and other organizations around the world holding events to educate about the threats frogs are facing.
From one-third to one-half of the planet’s amphibian species are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, over collection and disease, including a fatal fungus.
Scientists say they have to figure out a way to rid the environment of chytrid fungus or help frogs develop a resistance. The frogs can be cured with a fungicide, but they’ll be affected again upon re-entry.
Amphibian Ark wants 500 frogs from 500 species to be held in biosecure facilities around the world. Jeffrey Bonner, president of the Saint Louis Zoo and Amphibian Ark’s immediate past chair, called the effort “protective custody for frogs.”
Profits from the auction of the first frog will be donated to the lab of Dr. Luis Coloma in Ecuador for frog conservation work.
Researchers don’t know if they’ll be able to save the frog whose naming rights are being auctioned. That’s because they don’t know how many are still in the wild.
But, Zippel said, the funds will go to study how many of those frogs remain in the field and to help efforts to conserve it and other frogs in Ecuador.
Bonner called the online auction “just lovely.” He said, “It’s such a wonderful idea. I hope it works.” If $500,000 were raised, “we could save a lot of animals,” he said.
Amphibian Ark is a partnership between the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Conservation Union.