The press fall for it every time. Such stories sell. It is a quick and harmless public interest 'filler' story. They rarely fail to include a news item in the vein of 'X zoo needs help in naming their five new lion cubs'. Often such stories will even make it to prime time TV, especially if accompanied by a bit of clever film footage.
If it works, why knock it? It gets the people through the gates. People mean money and money means ex-situ and in-situ conservation to those zoos which actually care.
The auctioning of naming rights is a new concept. Before Whipsnade Wild Animal Park held their recent auction on eBay I was unaware of anything similar taking place anywhere before. A brilliant idea,
The final outcome was that at the close of bidding on the 6th May 2010 they had managed to raise £1,850.00
That is no small sum. Elephants are popular animals but it left me wondering how much a Giant Panda cub could raise or a frog or a fallow deer, especially if there is a cute photo attached.
Chiang Mai Zoo raised a huge amount last year in the competition to name their Giant Panda cub. The difference there was that it was a postal competition and not an internet auction....but there were 22 Million people who sent in their suggestions! Chiang Mai only accepted suggestions sent in on a special postcard that had to be purchased from post offices. That is another idea which is well worth copying.