Lizard hunt sets alarm bells ringing - 8 tokay geckos rescued in Manipur, buzz of lucrative prices triggers capture

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 4.08.12
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Imphal, Aug. 3: Tokay gecko (gekko gecko), a harmless Asian lizard, suddenly finds itself being hunted by poachers and traders, who, in turn, are being trailed by wildlife officials and police.

Eight tokay geckos were rescued by police from Bishnupur and Thoubal districts in three cases in the past few days and released in Keibul Lamjao wildlife sanctuary by officials of the wildlife department yesterday.

People started capturing the reptile after rumours spread that an international syndicate was ready to buy it at lucrative prices. People from Jiribam, Churachandpur and Senapati districts are reportedly making enquiries through friends here whether anyone in the state capital or elsewhere in the state was willing to buy tokay geckos at a “good price”. But till today, there was no official confirmation that anyone was buying the reptile.

Wildlife officials said the rumour has it that the lizard has a high demand in foreign countries because of its medicinal values and one tokay gecko can fetch lakhs of rupees.

“The development is disturbing. We have registered three cases. In one case, the trader has been fined Rs 25,000 by the court,” state chief wildlife warden Anil Kumar told this correspondent today.

He said the wildlife department was on alert and seeking help from law enforcement agencies to stop poaching and trading of this lizard. “We are writing formal letters to all the law enforcing agencies to seek their help in checking smuggling of wildlife,” he said.

State wildlife officials contacted the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau’s regional office in Calcutta for information on the international smuggling scene, value of tokay gecko and its uses.

The regional office told them that there was an international market and people bought the lizard as a decorative item for their drawing rooms. It, however, could not confirm its price in the international market. Officials here said there was no scientific proof of tokay gecko having medicinal value.

Tokay gecko is found in the Northeast, Nepal, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Indonesia and Western Guinea. In Manipur, it is mainly found in warmer places like Jiribam and Churachandpur. It is also found in neighbouring Cachar district of Assam.

Though it is not listed as an endangered species in Schedule I to IV of the international red data book, it has become a threatened species in the Philippines because of indiscriminate hunting.

“Even though tokay gecko is not an endangered species, we are making every effort to protect it because unchecked hunting will ultimately make it a threatened species in Manipur,” another wildlife official said.