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Bangladesh jails 16 gecko smugglers

/ 08:15 PM February 16, 2012

A gecko or Tuko is among 150 confiscated reptiles now at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife in Quezon City. BERMUDEZ/INQUIRER

DHAKA—Sixteen gecko smugglers have been jailed for up to two years in Bangladesh following a police crackdown to help save the lizard whose numbers have fallen dramatically, police said on Wednesday.

Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested the smugglers in the capital Dhaka and its outskirts on Tuesday, RAB operations officer Abul Baten said.

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“They were tried on the spot by a magistrate who handed them jail terms between one and two years,” he said.

The poaching of geckos for use in traditional medicine is pushing the species towards extinction, environmentalists have warned.

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Bangladesh has emerged as a key source for other Asian nations, with smugglers targeting Tokay geckos, which have grey/blue bodies and brightly colored spots.

“Around 50 percent of the nation’s gecko population has been decimated since this killing craze began,” said Monirul Khan, wildlife professor at Jahangirnagar University.

Geckos are considered cure-alls in some Asian nations. Their use in alternative medicine has already ravaged the lizard’s numbers in Malaysia and threatened the species in the Philippines, experts say.

“Unless the gecko traders are put into custody, there is no way we can save this hapless animal. It will be extinct in Bangladesh in the near future,” Anwarul Islam, a fellow at the Zoological Society of London, told AFP.

Experts have said a lack of effective law-enforcement has turned Bangladesh into a key wildlife trafficking corridor in the region, with its porous land border and ports being used for smuggling.

In June last year, Bangladesh border police seized more than 120 kilograms (270 pounds) of dead turtles, their largest ever haul of the animal, which is also used in traditional medicine.

It came just weeks after Thai customs discovered hundreds of live turtles, including 35 rare star tortoises and other endangered animals in a suitcase from Bangladesh at Bangkok’s main airport.

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TAGS: animals, Crime, gecko, Wildlife Trafficking
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