Imagine having your name, or the name of your child or company, immortalized by being used to name a newly discovered species. You can, if you have the money.
Paracheilinus nursalim, a fish species discovered in 2007, was named after Sjamsul and Itjih Nursalim, while Chrysiptera giti, another fish species, was named after Giti Group, the company of Enki Tan and Cherie Nursalim. Sjamsul Nursalim also happens to be the name of a suspect in the massive Bank Indonesia liquidity assistance fraud scheme in 1997.
A report released by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) on Monday said that the Nusalims and Enki and Cherie bought their naming rights through a bidding process, organized by Christie’s auction house, at a gala dinner in Monaco in 2007.
Another familiar Indonesian name among the bidders was Sindhuchajana Sulistyo, who won the right to name a species Pterois andover.
“Scientists discovering the species have given up their rights to name their findings in an effort to raise funds for marine conservation,” said Suharsono, head of LIPI’s Research Center for Oceanography.
The two species of fish were found in 2007 by scientists Gary Allen and Mark Erdmann in the Bird’s Head Seascape, an area in the northwest corner of Papua, along with nine other species, including two speckled sharks that walk on their fins and a species of seahorse.
Suharsono said the event raised more than $2 million and some $500,000 of it was given to LIPI to train 10 scientists to become marine taxonomists. With its vast oceanic biodiversity, Indonesia was in dire need of more marine taxonomists, he said.
“There are only about 20 marine taxonomists in the country, and that is very inadequate compared with our country’s abundant marine species,” Suharsono said.
Hery Harjono, LIPI’s deputy chairman for earth sciences, said: “There is a possibility that there are many marine species that have gone extinct without ever having been scientifically recorded.”