Kuala Lumpur: 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.
TRAFFIC said such claims were unfounded and "indicative
of an elaborate hoax." The Philippines` 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
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 in length. The
reptiles feed on insects and worms, helping to regulate pests
and maintain the ecosystem.