Although it is yet to be confirmed, there are reports of Bhutanese people, especially in the southern parts of the country, of being involved in an illegal trade of Tokey Gecko by smuggling it across the border for its supposedly high medicinal properties.
Unconfirmed reports say that each lizard is worth cash amounting in millions. Such a huge price tag on the giant lizard is attributed to the unfounded claims that it is a potential cure for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Tokey Gecko is a giant, nocturnal Asian lizard known to grow up to 40 cm in length and is easily identified by its orange-spotted, blue-grey skin. While it is recorded from northeastern part of India, the informal reports have been filed of its presence in southern part of the country particularly in Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, Phuentsholing and other areas sharing border and having similar habitat favorable for Tokey Gecko to thrive in.
According to sources, forestry officials have been tipped-off of such illegal smuggling in progress for some time. “We were informed by some residents, who have been witness to such illegal trade,” said a forest department official who requested not to be named.
He said they were notified of incidents where people were involved in hunting down the lizard from its natural habitat. It is said that, people capture the lizard to sell it across the borders to fetch millions from a clientele outside the porous borders.
Official also divulged that a patrol team has been formed to nab the miscreants.
“Despite our several attempts, we could not catch them red-handed,” said the forest official.
He also added that although the illegal trade is pretty obvious, they could not confirm it outright. “We could have confirmed it if we succeeded in nabbing them once,” he added.
According to online literature, the lizard is known to live on cliffs and trees being mostly an arboreal or tree-dwelling and cliff-dwelling creature.
Those who have seen Tokay Geckoes describe it as one of the largest lizard alive today growing to the length of around 35 cms. Its body shape is cylindrical, squat, and somewhat flattened on the upper side with well-defined limbs. The lizard is also known to carry a large head which houses the large, prominent eyes.
The unique feature of the animal, people, who have seen it say, is that it has remains of a rudimentary third eye on the top of their head, which is believed to coordinate their activity to light conditions. The ears, however, are represented by small holes on both sides of the head which it can see straight through.
With its soft, granular skin several brownish-red to bright red spots and flecks, the Tokey Gecko, like any other lizard is said to be a master camouflage easily blending with its surrounding. Such ability is also reason why it has high success rate in catching prey and also in dodging its predators.
Equally interesting fact about the creature is that are its toes that have fine setae on them, which give them the ability to cling to vertical and over-hanging surfaces and move at fast speeds.
The lizard in captivity as per the research done by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research is said to live up to 10.5 years.
In some parts of the world, Tokay Geckoes is sold as pets. In parts of Southeast Asia, Tokay Geckoes are regarded as harbingers of luck, good fortune, and fertility.
However, the Tokey Gecko has no special status since no evaluation as of now has been done under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.