My man Greg McCann, who works on tiger and forest preservation in SE Asia, alerted me to this piece on Mongabay about this study on trade in Tokay geckos, accounting for millions of deaths:
The study found that a spike in tokay gecko demand due to rumors that it could cure HIV/AIDS was relatively short-lived, lasting from 2009 and early 2011. Nonetheless geckos are still traded in large numbers, with over-collection impacting wild populations across much of the reptile's range, especially in Thailand and Java.People who buy dead dried geckos believe they can help with asthma, diabetes, and skin disorders, according to the photo caption there. The death toll is enormous wherever believers in Chinese medicine exist -- one shipment bound for Hong Kong in 2011 was busted with 1.2 million dried geckos on board. The traffic even heads for the US to service the traditional medicine insanity there -- 8.5 tons of dried geckos from 1998-2004. The report observes:
The study notes that Taiwan has declared imports of at least 15 million geckos since 2004. Major consuming nations also include mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Viet Nam.
According to Customs import information provided to TRAFFIC by the Taiwanese government, Taiwan has imported over 450 tonnes of dried Tokay Geckos for use in TM since 2004, which represents a value of nearly USD 2 000 000 (Table 3). This equates to ~15 000 000 individual Tokay Geckos (See box 1, above). During this period over 57 tonnes of Tokay Geckos (~1 900 000 ind.) were imported into Taiwan on average every year with nearly 104 tonnes (~3 466 666 ind.) imported in 2008. Thailand is the largest origin state for Tokay Geckos imported into Taiwan accounting for 71% of imports (322.7 tonnes/ ~10 757 000 ind.) followed by Indonesia which accounted for 28% (125.6 tonnes/ ~4 187 000 ind.) of imports. Imports from mainland China were comparatively small and accounted for 1% of the total.Exports from Thailand are more or less legal, but it is illegal to send them out of Indonesia. There is some farming of geckos but production can't keep up with demand, meaning that wild populations are deteriorating over time despite high reproductive rates and ability to co-exist with humans. All for a completely unscientific, unnecessary, and useless medicinal belief.
Thailand has exported 40 tonnes (~1 467 000 ind.) on average annually to Taiwan compared to an average ~16 tonnes (~533 000 ind.) exported from Indonesia. However, in 2008 Indonesia exported nearly 66 tonnes (~2 200 000 ind.) of dried Tokay Geckos to Taiwan.
A sharp commenter on the Mongabay site observed that the loss of geckos, who eat mosquitoes, probably mean a rise in malaria (in other words, people are being killed by servicing the gecko demand). The report notes that because the gecko trade is so valuable, breeders and shippers face the constant threat of robbery. All needless, to go with the demand for ivory, and rhino horn, and pangolins, and other such stupidity.....
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