DENR threatens gecko traders with fines, jail time

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MANILA, Philippines—Illegal traders of geckos are threatened with jail terms and hefty fines in a bid by the Philippines to protect the threatened species against the lucrative Asian wildlife trafficking.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the country’s wildlife laws ban the illegal trade and transport of geckos, locally known as tuko.

Violators face prison terms of up to four years and a fine of up to P300,000, said Paje.

Wildlife conservationists have been alarmed by the growing gecko trade and Paje cautioned the public against “jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of easy money.”

Brisk gecko trade in countries such as Malaysia has caused a decline in the local lizard population, driving wildlife traffickers to source it  from other Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines.

A 300-gram gecko reportedly fetches a minimum of P50,000 in the Asian underground market, said Paje.

Gecko is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and said to cure various diseases, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, asthma, tuberculosis and impotence. The Department of Health has dismissed these, saying there was no scientific basis to back up such claims.

Paje stressed that the tropical reptiles are protected under the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which strictly regulates the collection of wildlife species.

He underscored the need to maintain “a healthy population” of geckos as they “play an important role in maintaining our fragile ecosystems.”

“Geckos feed on insects and worms. Larger species hunt small birds and rodents, while still other species feed on plant matter such as mosses,” Paje said.

The Philippines has 34 species of geckos, 26 of which are endemic, said the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

Geckos (family Gekkonidae) are carnivorous, usually nocturnal reptiles that can be found in tropical countries, and are known for their sticky footpads that allow them to climb vertical surfaces. They are the only reptiles known to use their voice for social interaction.

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