I was reared in the province and as a young child, I was never really afraid of seeing, touching and playing with insects and wild animals. I would run around in the ranch, hide in sewers playing stow-away from my older brother, and swim in fish ponds. I would run after cows, step on snakes, smuggle fruits from the army camp’s trees and get lost in the jungle.
There was one thing, though, that had always been appaling to me. Playing with geckos. When I was in third grade, I came upon several boy playmates who were gathered together, cheering on something in the middle. I though it was some students who were on a wrestling match in the middle, but when I checked, it was a poor, mutilated gecko trapped in a transparent plastic bad. Inside the plastic bag was a part of its tail, wriggling and the gecko, whose reptilian, serpentine eyes were gloating. The boys had a wager among each that the gecko would grow its tail back in no time.
I’m not sure if it was the sight of the wriggling tail or the gecko’s haunting, reptilian glare, I fled the scene. Since then, I avoided playing in sewers, marshes ,swamps and other wet places out of fear of encountering another gecko.
So when I read in newpapers that the demand for tokay geckos had skyrocketed because of some unfounded claims on Asian websites and blogs that consuming the reptile’s tongue and internal organs could cure HIV. Some believe that its meat is also an aphrodisiac while its blood and bile suppresses tumors in cancer patients.
Back then, the boys were betting that the gecko would regenerate its tail (or maybe it’s tail would reattach to its behind, I couldn’t remember anymore.) Maybe geckos have such an amazing ability that they could regenerate (Wow, only Wolverine could do that).
In folkloric practice, geckos are dried and pulverized to use as medicine, and there are anecdotal accounts of the saliva or internal organs being collected. Commonly found in northeast India and Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia and western New Guinea. The gecko’s market price is P250,000 (a little over 1 million US dollars) if the average weight 300 grams – 399 grams. Heavier that 1000 grams geckos could be sold at approximately 10 million. As buyers are only interested in Tokay geckos weighing 300 grams and above, those possessing smaller Tokay geckos would rear the reptiles hoping to sell them once their weight exceeds 300 grams. They are fed chicken liver to speed up its growth process. although Tokay geckos usually feed on insects such as crickets, cockroaches and grasshoppers.
I had friends who have geckos for pet. But geckos as food or as a health supplement? Ack. I am ready to gag myself.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)reminded people that reports are untrue by posting a message on its Facebook page. The post said that geckos brim with medicinal beneifts is just a hoax and that there is no scientific evidence that gecko can cure HIV/AIDS or cancer. Furthermore, there is no information on the safety and hygiene consequences from exposure to geckos,” the health organisation said. WHO’s posting coincided with wildlife trade watchdog TRAFFIC’s call for the protection of the gecko, following a sharp increase in illegal smuggling of the lizard in Southeast Asia.
Environmentalists also argue that a healthy population of geckos is needed to regulate pests and maintain the fragile ecosystem because geckos feed on insects and worms. The larger ones of its species hunt small birds and rodents.