Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today warned the public to refrain from joining the bandwagon on illegal collection and trade of geckos, saying there is no scientific basis that geckos have medicinal properties.
Paje likewise stressed that geckos, known locally as “tuko” are protected under Republic Act (RA) No. 9147, otherwise known as the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, such that their collection from the wild as well as their trade are strictly regulated.
“The law expressly provides that the collection, trade or transport of geckos without appropriate permits from the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, which is under the DENR, is punishable by imprisonment and fine. Specifically, if the technique used in the capture of the gecko is inappropriate, this is punishable by imprisonment ranging from two to four years, and a fine of up to PhP300,000,” Paje said.
The DENR secretary issued the statement in light of reports in the Philippines and other Asian countries that geckos are being harvested and sold for their medicinal properties, particularly as aphrodisiac and as a cure for cancer, AIDS, asthma, tuberculosis and impotence.
With no scientific evidence to back up such claims, however, Paje cautioned the public against “jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of easy money”, amid reports that a 300-gram gecko has a minimum price of P50,000.
PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim has earlier said that the agency has not issued any permits legalizing the sale and/or breeding of geckos for commercial purposes, nor for their collection from the wild.
Paje also underscored the necessity of “maintaining a healthy population” of geckos as they help regulate the pest population. “Geckos feed on insects and worms. Larger species hunt small birds and rodents, while still other species feed on plant matter such as mosses. They play an important role in maintaining our fragile ecosystems,” he said.
Wildlife conservationists have been alarmed by the growing gecko trade. The supposedly lucrative business in other countries such as Malaysia has caused a decline in the local gecko population, driving traders and suppliers to source the reptiles from other countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.
The PAWB lists 34 species of geckos distributed throughout the country, of which 26 are endemic.
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, including glass. They are also known to be the only reptiles to use their voice for social interaction.