The Golden Monkey

Taxonomic Tithing really can make a difference. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what happened a few years back when naming rights to a newly discovered primate were put up to public auction.

The Monkey

The story starts in 2000 when the British biologist Rob Wallace discovered a new species of titi monkey in the relatively unexplored Madidi National Park in Bolivia. Wallace made world headlines when he voluntarily gave up his right to name his new monkey – a rare privilege most biologists would be fortunate enough to enjoy even once in their lifetime. Instead, after 5 years of study, the name went up for auction - Taxonomic Tithing in its first incarnation!

The auction generated over a dozen bids before Ellen Degeneres was outbid by a mysterious anonymous bidder for the astonishing sum of $650,000.00. In Bolivia, whose parks are tragically underfunded, the interest from this alone could pay for seven park guards forever.

But who was this generous masked stranger? Not Al Gore, not Bill Gates, not George Clooney, not even a person at all. As if to underscore the growing presence and power of the internet, the winner was an on-line casino named

We are happy to have this opportunity to help out a very worthy cause. This species will bear our name for as long as it exists. Hundreds, even thousands of years from now, the Monkey will live to carry our name through the ages. Naming this species has bought us scientific, as well as virtual immortality.
— CEO Richard Rowe even created a special website,, inviting people join in their efforts to support Madidi National Park and protect the casino’s new mascot.1

And so it came to be that the Madidi Titi was named Callicebus aureipalatii.2

1 News2Press newswire, April 13, 2005, edited by Christopher Simmons

2 Wallace, R.B., Gomez, H., Felton, A., and Felton, A.M. 2006. On a new species of titi monkey, genus Callicebus Thomas (Primates, Pitheciidae), from western Bolivia with preliminary notes on distribution and abundance. Primate Conservation. Vol. 20, 29-39. Click here for more information.