Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who Are These Towkays For These Tokays?

A casual chat with a local driver this morning has changed my viewpoint about certain countries that advocate on wildlife conversation.

It is about our dear little friends that look like this:

These geckos are still being sought after and the prices are still very lucrative for those big fat ones. I came across a local who told me that these geckos would be taken out of Malaysia via Thailand and towards Taiwan and Japan. I always thought that the culprits were from the East Asia only. Not quite so. 

Which other countries that are buying these tokay geckos?

1. Germany
2. Netherlands
3. United States
4. Australia

Were you shocked? If you were, I was shocked too. This local driver has some connection with the poachers and also the buyers. He told me that the upcoming country buying them would be Australia. In his hand phone were a few pictures of tokay geckos caught or breed by his friends. There was one picture with a size of a medium size adult monitor lizard! That would certainly cost RM1 million.

These people would go out into the forest in the middle of the night to catch these creatures which claimed to have medicinal properties. Professor Aaron Bauer from Villanova University wrote about geckos that had been used in Chinese traditional medicines for a least hundreds of years. These creatures have been used to treat a variety of ailments including coughs, kidney stones, asthma, diabetes and sexual dysfunction (Read, 1934). More recently, gecko products have been used for the treatment of cancer as well, and there is much study regarding the relevant active ingredients, pharmacological effects and clinical applications of gecko products (Chen and Huang, 2001).

Now, these geckos are in high demand by medicine industry abroad as it is believed that the tongue of these creatures can cure AIDS. 

However, the Deputy Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustine Tuuga warned:

Friday, 11 June 2010

The public are advised not to simply believe the medicinal cure of Tokay gecko without scientific proof, said deputy director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Augustine Tuuga.He also advised people who venture into jungles in the hope of capturing a gecko believing it would fetch a high price to think twice as no research had been done to verify the claims.
The sudden trend in rearing Tokay gecko, believed to be a cure for AIDS, had caused a soar in demand for live crickets here as crickets are its main source of food.
The internal organs of the gecko were also rumoured to be able to treat asthma, skin diseases and mental illnesses.
Although Tokay gecko is neither a protected nor an endangered species in the state, Augustine pointed out that the trend to capture the gecko could led to its extinction.
“If there is really scientific or medicinal proof that the gecko could be used to make medicine, we will see if we have to enforce a limited number or stop the people from catching the gecko.
“If we feel that the Tokay gecko is threatened, we will enlist it as a protected species,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Augustine further said that it was legal to sell Tokay gecko, as it is not a protected species.
“However, to export it will require permits from the Department of Veterinary and the Wildlife Department.” While he confessed that he has heard many rumours about gecko, Augustine said he did not know anyone who has actually sold a Tokay gecko.
Augustine also revealed that there had been a lot of similar cases where animals said to have medicinal benefits were caught for business purposes, including leeches.
“But they did not earn anything in the end, and even faced greater loss.
“I feel that we have to get scientific evidence, if not it will be a waste of time.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun pointed out that the medicinal benefits of Tokay gecko was an ‘unsubstantiated claim’ at this point of time.
He also advised the public to be cautious on these kinds of claims.
Source: Borneo Post

Yeah!! Bravo to Sabah Wildlife Department for making those statements! I would say that  these geckos should now be listed as protected species for Malaysia and also either in Appendix I or Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

I was shocked to learn that Australia is one of the buyers. I tend to look upon Australia as one of the role models in protecting their wildlife. I seriously hope that the local driver was only joking and yet again, he sounded serious.



  1. Don't get me started!

    I had a look on the AQIS (Australian Quarantine Service) database to see what the conditions are for import. Certainly, live reptiles are only allowed in for zoos and research facilities, but --- and I find this repulsive --- if they are non-CITES species and are processed into 'commercially prepared and packaged capsules, tablets, vials for injection, liquid, powder or ointment with no visible pieces of animal tissue' then it's okay. It would seem to me that one would not even need to include animal material under those circumstances. After all, who would know?

  2. Hi Snail,
    Thank you for your input and finding out some facts at your end.
    True enough that if it is a non-CITES species, that would definitely enter into the market of any countries in the world.
    I not here to criticize your country. If you could help to dig some information in related to this, that would be great. Or if you come across such information, please do share with me.

    Also, it would be interesting to know how tokay geckos are processed into tablets, capsules, liquid, power, etc.

    Thanks again.

  3. I will see what I can dig up. I don't have many contacts in this area, but there should be some information around.

    When I said it was okay, I meant, of course, according to our quarantine standards! My opinions on the collection, breeding and use of tokay geckos are much the same as yours.

    I not here to criticize your country.

    If we do silly things, we deserve criticism! And, my goodness, we do some silly things at times.

  4. Hi Snail,
    Thanks and hope to hear from you.

    Hi Raoul,
    :( too...

  5. but if there's scientific proof about the cure of Geckos for HIV, then why buyers spend a lot of money...,,? I think a group of doctors and researchers know so much about this....

  6. Even if there's scientific proof, people don't need to go to lengths and breath to squeeze every single gecko out for a gram or two of some useful medical chemicals! This is wasteful at the least and downright foolish at most.

    Just understand how the chemical works and try synthesising them in the lab instead. That's how people in the bio-chemistry labs do to get the pharmaceticals we often take for granted these days.


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