New chameleon species named after carbon conservation pioneer
April 21, 2009

A newly discovered species of chameleon from Tanzania has been named after Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation, an outfit which seeks to make rainforest conservation profitable through a carbon market mechanism known as REDD for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

The blue-spotted species is now known as "Kinyongia dorjeesuni". The name was bestowed during a benefit for the African Rainforest Conservancy, a group that is working to conserve and restore African rainforests.

Sun joins a distinguished list of previous ARC New Species Award recipients, including actor Harrison Ford, actor James Gandolfini, journalist George Plimpton, Conservation International Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann, professor Michael Oppenheimer, and environmental activist Gloria Flora.

Sun says his efforts are putting a value on rainforests as living entities.

"Every day we lose 71,000 football fields of pristine rainforest by forestry companies," said Sun. “We can continue to kick around on the fringe of irrelevancy, or step up to the plate and make a real difference?"

"If we lose rainforests, which we will by 2050 if deforestation continues at the current rate, we lose the fight against climate change. Deforestation releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than all the world's cars, trucks, and airplanes combined" said Sun. “We all discuss the climate crisis as urgent, but stopping deforestation is one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to reduce global carbon emissions."

Sun's story is featured in The Burning Season, a documentary appearing next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. The Burning Season follows Sun in his quest to conserve a vast tract of rainforest in the Indonesian province of Aceh ahead of the 2007 U.N. climate meeting in Bali. Shortly after the conference, Sun landed a deal that could eventually generate more than $400 million in carbon finance. Benefits would extend to local communities and, more broadly, the planet.

"Forest carbon is the first link between financial markets and our earth's infrastructure," Sun told "REDD payments are good for the forests and forests are good for the planet.

Dorjee Sun's Chameleon

The newly described species of chameleon lives in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, a chain that has nearly 100 species of endemic vertebrates, including reptiles, birds, and amphibians, and even primates — in 2005 a previously unknown species of money was discovered in a remote area. But these unique species are under threat — more than 70 percent are endangered due to forest clearing and unsustainable hunting practices. The African Rainforest Conservancy is working to change this through community conservation projects in more than 130 villages.

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New chameleon species named after carbon conservation pioneer.