Target: John Scanlon, Secretary-General for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Goal: Protect tokay geckos from being hunted for their alleged medicinal value.
A vulnerable species of gecko is being targeted by poachers to be used in traditional medicinal liquors that have no scientifically proven health benefits. The tokay gecko has great cultural significance in parts of Asia, where it is believed to be descended from dragons and is viewed as a symbol of good luck and fertility. This folklore has been applied to the species’ medicinal value as well; the tokay gecko is mistakenly believed to nourish the kidneys and lungs, and is a key ingredient in certain traditional Chinese medicines. As a result, the species is vulnerable to poachers looking to make a profit off of its alleged medicinal value, and the population is suffering.
The tokay gecko is native to Asia and some Pacific Islands and is recognizable for its large size, spotted coloration, and loud, croaking call. This loud vocalization makes the species an easy target for hunters, as it can be heard from a great distance. Increasing urbanization has already shrunk the tokay gecko’s habitat range, and the added threat of poaching has caused its population to decrease at an alarming rate. The species is so highly sought after in China, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia that some vendors will pay thousands of dollars for large specimens and will even go so far as to disfigure other lizard species with prosthetics to pass them off for tokay geckos.
The tokay gecko needs to be defended, but is not yet considered endangered and therefore lacks certain protections that would keep it safe from hunters. Even the laws that are currently in place do little to stop illegal wildlife trade. In the Philippines, for example, collecting, transporting and trading geckos without a license is a highly punishable offense, yet is are such a huge number of illegal traders that the crime goes largely unchecked. Sign the petition below to urge CITES to increase conservation efforts and enforce poaching restrictions to keep the tokay gecko from extinction.
Dear Mr. Scanlon,
The tokay gecko, a vulnerable species, is a target for poachers due to its alleged medicinal value. The species is believed to have health benefits for the kidneys and lungs despite a lack of scientific proof, and is a key ingredient in several traditional Chinese medicines. The tokay gecko is considered so valuable in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other parts of Asia that some merchants will pay thousands of dollars for large specimens, creating a steady demand for hunters looking to make a profit.
Increasing urbanization has already taken a toll on the tokay gecko’s habitat, and the combination of shrinking territory and continual poaching is causing the population to decline at an alarming rate. The tokay gecko is known for its loud, croaking call, and this vocalization only helps to make it an easy target for hunters as it can be heard from far away.
The laws that are currently in place to protect this species have proven insufficient. In the Philippines, for example, illegal wildlife trade is rampant despite the heavy fine and term of imprisonment that are meant to prohibit the unlicensed collection and trade of geckos. I am urging you to increase conservation efforts to protect this vulnerable gecko species. Please take action to prevent illegal poaching, and put an end to the harmful tradition of using tokay gecko parts in supposedly medicinal liquors.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Vberger