The chance to name a new species is usually reserved for the researcher who formally describes it, but wildlife conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is bucking the trend by inviting people to bid in an auction that would allow them to take part in the naming process for one of several new species recently discovered in Myanmar and Vietnam.

The names of four species – three snails and one gecko – are up for grabs, with auction proceeds going to support the charity’s exciting and unique work to conserve the often overlooked biodiversity in caves and limestone hills. Excitingly, people can also bid to help choose the name of an entire genus.

Auction winners will work with expert biologists to agree on the basis for the name, which will then be translated into a suitable format for scientific naming.

“We believe this may be the first time that the opportunity to name a genus has been put up for auction,” says Dr Tony Whitten, senior adviser at Fauna & Flora International. “The name chosen by the winner will apply not only to the two species we already know to belong to this genus, but also to any other related species discovered in the future.”

Credit: Jaap Vermeulen.

Credit: Jaap Vermeulen.

The money received for this will support Fauna & Flora International’s unique programme that supports the exploration and conservation of the barely known limestone hills and caves in Southeast Asia and beyond. These are threatened especially by the careless development of ‘show caves’ and by the quarrying of limestone.

What can people bid for?

Through Fauna & Flora International’s auction, people can bid for the chance to help name one or more of the following:

  • A new genus of round-mouth snail which was recently discovered in a limestone cave system in Vietnam. The reserve price for the genus name is £15,000.
  • Two new endangered species from the new snail genus (see above). The reserve price for each snail species name is £5,000.
  • A new endangered species of ‘ghost’ snail, so dubbed because of its unusual, translucent shell, which is found on the surface of a Vietnamese limestone hill. The reserve price for this species name is £5,000.
  • A beautiful new species of ‘slender gecko’ discovered in Myanmar. The reserve price for the gecko species name is £10,000.

The highest bidder for each naming opportunity will also receive an exquisite original drawing of the species (or genus).

Species or genus?

“We’re seeking a donor who would like to support FFI’s work in limestone landscapes,” said Dr Whitten. “In return, they will have the rare opportunity to work with a taxonomist and agree the essence of the names and the proper Greek or Latin formulation that will forever be assigned to these beautiful animals.

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity to preserve your name for posterity,” he added, “or to honour a friend or loved one with a truly unique gift – all while supporting the vital work of one of the world’s leading conservation organisations.”

How to take part

The auction will run from 5 July to 4 August 2017.

To place a bid, email [email protected] with your name, the item you are bidding on and bid amount. The auction closes at 5pm (BST) on 4 August 2017, and the highest bidders will be notified on 7 August 2017.

Terms and conditions apply. To learn more, read the press release.

Main image credit: Lee Grismer.