Asian gecko at risk over claims it can cure AIDS | Global News

Asian gecko at risk over claims it can cure AIDS

/ 05:31 PM November 16, 2011
In this undated photo released by TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Tokay Geckos are seen in Betong town, southern Thailand, near the border with Malaysia. A wildlife anti-smuggling group says claims that a nocturnal Asian lizard could treat AIDS has led to a sharp boom in the illegal cross-border trade of the reptile. (AP Photo/TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, O.Caillabet) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES

Tokay Geckos are seen in Betong town, southern Thailand, near the border with Malaysia. AP Photo/TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Claims that a nocturnal Asian lizard can be used to help treat the HIV virus have led to a sharp boom in smuggling of the reptile, putting it at risk, a conservation group said.

Demand for the Tokay Gecko has skyrocketed in recent years after online blogs, newspaper articles and wildlife traders extolled the consumption of the lizard’s tongue and internal organs as a miracle cure for HIV, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia said in a report.

ADVERTISEMENT

TRAFFIC said such claims were unfounded and “indicative of an elaborate hoax.” The Philippine government in July also warned that using geckos to treat AIDS and impotence may put patients at risk.

“TRAFFIC is alarmed at the massive increase in trade of these geckos. If the trade continues to mushroom, it could take years to repair the damage currently being inflicted on gecko populations,” said Chris R.Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s regional deputy director.

FEATURED STORIES

The geckos, popular as pets in Asia, have long been used as traditional medicine for illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, skin disease and cancer, the report said. Their carcasses are dried up and ground into powder for consumption. In some parts of Asia, Tokay wine or whisky is consumed to boost energy.

The Tokay Gecko, which has distinct orange-spotted, blue-grey skin, can grow up to 15.7 inches (40 centimeters) in length. The reptiles feed on insects and worms, helping to regulate pests and maintain the ecosystem.

TRAFFIC said more than eight and a half tons of dried geckos were legally imported into the United States between 1998 and 2002 for use in traditional medicine. Huge numbers are traded within Asia and it said Malaysia has emerged as a key hub to meet demand, especially in China.

It said 1,000 geckos believed headed for Malaysia were recently seized in Cambodia, while a couple have been detained for trying to smuggle nearly a $1 million worth of lizards from Thailand to Malaysia. Customs officers in Indonesia’s Java island also recently foiled a bid to smuggle dried Tokay Geckos bound for Hong Kong and China using expired permits.

ADVERTISEMENT

Shepherd said the Tokay Gecko remained poorly protected by national legislation and called for the lizard to be protected under CITES, the international convention on endangered species, before it becomes extinct.

Subscribe to our global nation newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: AIDS, animals, Asia, Conservation, disease, gecko, Health, HIV, Traditional Medicine
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our global news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.