Tokay Gecko: Poachers in search of the million-rupee reptile

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By Hrishikesh Angom

Believe it or not, a reptile known as Tokay Gecko could fetch million of rupees and it is in high demand in foreign countries for its supposed extraordinary medicinal value capable of treating dreaded diseases like AIDS and cancer.

Tokays are also found in the hills of Manipur. Reportedly, there are some foreign buyers in the state and their agents are around looking for larger specimens of this reptile.

According to some poachers, the agents are looking for bigger Tokays measuring not less than 14 inches from head to tail and weighing about 200 gram. Such large specimen could fetch more than two million rupees. However, large Tokays are hardly found though smaller ones are abundant in the hills. The hunt for Tokay Gecko is going on in many parts of the hill districts of Manipur.

Even people from the valley have reportedly gone into the interiors of hill districts in search of this million-rupee reptile. The poachers are indeed lured by this reptile.

It is not known whether sale of such reptile is banned in the state. Tokay Gecko is quickly becoming a threatened species in Philippines because of indiscriminate hunting. Collecting, transporting and trading geckos without a license can be punishable by up to twelve years in jail and a fine of up to 1,000,000 pesos under Republic Act 9147 in addition to other applicable international laws. However, the trade runs unchecked due to the sheer number of illegal traders and reports of lucrative deals. Chinese buyers and other foreign nationals are rumored to pay thousands of dollars for large specimens, reportedly because of their alleged medicinal value or as commodities in the illegal wildlife trade. The Philippine government has issued a warning against using geckos to treat AIDS and impotence, saying the folkloric practice in parts of Asia may put patients at risk.

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