If you're an expat in the Philippines like I am, you have undoubtedly heard the rumors spreading throughout the provinces that large geckos (called "tuko" for the distinctive "Tuk-koooooo!" sound they utter.) Reports have spreading throughout the Internet for months that the larger creatures are selling for P400,000 (9,500 US Dollars) per kilo. Why? Because there are stories circulating that enzymes produced from the geckos' gall bladders can cure AIDS.
(Photo by Damon Tighe via Flickr)
Frankly, that is just a lot of lizard poop according to Department of Health (DOH) officials in the Philippines. There is not any scientific evidence to support the AIDS cure claims. However, despite DOH's assertions, online trading of geckos has exploded on the worldwide web, especially on the Filipino buy-and-sell website Sulit.com. According to an article on ABS CBN news online, one user of the site posted an ad offering P60 million (1,428,575 US Dollars) for a 500-gram gecko.
There's speculation that the whole tuko trading thing is a scam. One poor sap got taken for 300,000 pesos when he said a group of individuals tricked him into paying a large amount of money for a gecko. "France" (not his real name) said he was lured to participate in the illegal trade after hearing rumors that geckos sell for millions of pesos, according to another ABS CBN report.
His search for geckos ended when he met a contact in Bukidnon who was willing to sell him a gecko.
While the seller originally priced the gecko at P1 million, France said he was able to bring it down to P300,000.
When France met with his contact, he had no idea he was being conned.
The guy selling the gecko told the mark that he would hold the gecko while the unwitting victim paid his partners. France coughed up the 300,000 pesos; the other guys in the con took his money and ran.The incident led France to seek assistance from police. Good luck with that, buddy.
The Daily Tribune reports that the gecko-hunting frenzy that is now sweeping many of the country’s rural communities has caught the attention of several congressmen who now want the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into the massive and indiscriminate trading of geckos.
Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento warned that this fad might push the extinction of this particular animal which is known to feed on insects such as mosquitoes and flies and cause irreversible effects on the environment. Some are speculating that this will even cause a rise in dengue fever, carried by mosquitoes, due to the decrease of the gecko population.
Personally, I have noticed a dramatic decrease of the tuko population the last year or so in our rural province of Guimaras. After my mother-in-law, The Feared Giant Lizard Killer (see photo above), dispatched a gecko in her bedroom one rainy night almost two years ago, the distinctive sound of the lizard has been missing at our home on the edge of a jungle in the Philippines.
Hardly a day would pass that I would not hear one. I don't know if Lola's tuko thrashing scared the other ones off or not, but I rarely hear or see any evidence of them now. When I walk along our main road early in the morning I was almost certain to notice their presence daily and wonder if one was going to jump on me from a nearby tree. Now all is quiet along the road save for the putt-putt of a passing tricycle or loud moo of a nearby cow. I kind of miss the tuko. Made my daily walk somewhat of an adventure. But I doubt that my mother-in-law shares my affection for them. She might be elderly and diminutive, but she carries a mean bolo. Just ask any tuko in Guimaras.