DENR starts info campaign vs trading of geckos

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) began distributing posters warning the public against gathering or selling gecko because it was illegal.
The DENR started the information drive after receiving reports that the collection of geckos has gone on a frenzy in Rizal and Laguna.

“I think it’s a scam. For one, it is very unlikely that a gecko will grow up to 300 grams no matter how much you feed it. We also haven’t encountered anyone actually getting paid for a gecko,” said Nilo Tamoria, DENR regional director, in a phone interview on Friday.

The collection of geckos, or “tuko”, listed as critical species, spurred the interests of many following reports that the animals can be sold to foreign buyers for P1,000 per gram for geckos that weigh at least 300 grams.
No one has really explained why the geckos are being collected, but some said it was believed that they can cure HIV or AIDS.

“We have received several reports… of people collecting the geckos. But when we go to the area to verify the report, the suspected poacher has either fled or disposed of the gecko,” said Tamoria.
Filipino-American potter Jon Pettyjohn, who lives near Mt. Makiling in Calamba City, also expressed alarm over frenzy on gathering geckos in his community.

“It seems hard to believe but true or not, I think everyone in the barangay is headed for the mountain,” he said in an e-mail to the Inquirer.

“In the 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen the disappearance of many animals like “bayawak” (monitor lizard) and some bird species (and) I would hate to see the tuko disappear, also,” he said.
The DENR posters advised the public that poaching, collecting and selling gecko is a violation of Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.”
It also said that the regional office of the DENR does not issue permits to collect or sell geckos and violators face fines of up to P300,000 or four years in jail.

Tamoria said the posters were distributed this week to DENR district offices to be placed in municipal halls and conspicuous areas in the region.

A statement issued by the health department yesterday warned against using geckos as treatment for any disease or as aphrodisiacs.

It said the use of geckos for any medicinal purpose has no scientific basis and could even lead to poisoning.
“This is likely to aggravate their overall health and put them at greater risk,” said the health department.
Treatments for asthma are easily available and affordable while there are antiviral drugs to control the progress of HIV, it said.

Geckos are carnivorous, nocturnal reptiles from the family Gekkonidae that are found in tropical countries. They are known for their sticky footpads. With a report from AP