Claims that a nocturnal Asian lizard could treat the HIV virus that causes AIDS have led to a sharp boom in illegal smuggling, putting the reptile at risk, an conservation group said Tuesday.
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 deputy director.
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 - AP