msnbc.com news services
updated 3/4/2005 11:37:32 AM ET 2005-03-04T16:37:32

The right to name a new species of monkey has sold for $650,000 in an online auction, with the funds going to protect the Bolivian habitat where the species lives, the Web site that handled the sale said.

The winning bidder, who outbid Ellen DeGeneres, chose to remain anonymous for now, said Kelly Fiore, director of business development for the New York-based auction venue, Charity Folks.

There was no immediate information on what the winner planned to name the species, but an announcement might be made later, Fiore said Thursday.

The new monkey name will have to conform with the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the organization that ensures every animal has a unique and universally accepted scientific name.

The species of titi monkey — which is about a foot tall and has a brown body, a golden crown, orange cheeks and a white-tipped tail — was discovered by a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist in Madidi National Park in Bolivia last year,. The term “titi monkey” describes about 30 species of monkeys found in South America.

Internet as 'safety net'
The proceeds of the auction were to be given to Bolivia’s park service to help protect Madidi and the many animals that live there.

“The Internet just became a safety net for this monkey and Madidi National Park,” Wildlife Conservation Society president Steven Sanderson said in a statement.

Talk show host DeGeneres donated an outfit and several pairs of sneakers for separate auctions, whose proceeds then were pooled into a bid to name the monkey. The money raised by her auctions still will go to support Madidi, said Michelle Gross, a spokeswoman for her show.

Charity Folks didn’t charge a commission on the monkey name auction.

WCS scientist Robert Wallace, who discovered the new species, came up with the idea of a naming auction to protect the park and its wildlife. Threats include illegal settlements and resource extraction, the society says.

RESEARCHERS IN BOLIVIAN SWAMP
Ian Kellett  /  Widlife Conservation Society
Researchers had to wade through swamps inside Bolivia's Madidi National Park in order to document the new monkey species.

Usually, the person who discovers a new animal has the honor of naming it, but Wallace said before the auction that he was happy to give someone else the chance.

“This opportunity is for someone who wants to leave behind a truly lasting legacy that they cared about conservation and wildlife,” Wallace said. “We are hoping someone realizes that this is about the monkey and about this amazing place which needs help.”

The winner's name, if approved, will be permanently entered into all future references, including scientific publications, field guides, and other publications that mention the new species.

Naming boundaries
Wallace said the winner would have to follow the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which, while flexible, does not allow for anything openly offensive.

Frequently animals are named after their habitat, characteristics or behavior. Among the locals in Madidi, Wallace said the monkeys were called “Luca, Luca” because of the sound they made.

Wallace said little was known about the new species, a variety of the titi monkey of the Callicebus genus. It stands about a foot tall, weighs two pounds and likes fruit.

The monkeys also like to gather in the morning in pairs to sing duets, where they call back and forth while clutching each other in what resembles a human embrace, the conservation group said.

Madidi National Park includes lowland forests as well as alpine meadows surrounded by glaciers –- all in an area about the size of New Jersey, the conservation group noted. Jaguars, giant river otters, rare orchids and more than 1,000 bird species are present there.

Background on the park and monkey species is online at www.wcs.org.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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