We drove all the way to the city last night to have dinner with the girls and — finally — to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 — as a family. Because of the stormy weather, we decided to go somewhere near the girls’ condo. The Mall of Asia was nearest so we went there.
After a Japanese dinner and a little food shopping (there is a Hizon’s stall beside the movie houses’ ticket counter), it was time for the much awaited movie date. It was almost too good to be true. Very few people inside the movie house. But, as it often turns out, things too good to be true are no good at all. Sam said there was a cockroach on the floor. When the thing passed by her foot again, she realized it was larger than a cockroach and it had a tail. Damn. I hate people who put their feet up on the backrest of the seat in front of them in the movie house but Alex and I automatically put our feet up (the seats in front of us were unoccupied). No insect nor mammal was going to get near my feet in the dark. I was not about to ruin our Harry Potter date by screaming my head off and disrupt the screening.
Fortunately, whatever it was that was crawling on the floor did not make its presence felt again. We watched the movie, enraptured. No spoilers in case some of you plan on seeing the movie. It’s really the gecko that I want to write about.
(Stock photo from Stock.Xchng)
So, we were driving the girls back to their condo when the talk turned to geckos. How did we get there? We were still talking about what was crawling inside the movie house and vowing never to see another movie at any of the Mall of Asia cinemas again. From cockroach to rat, suddenly Speedy and Sam were talking about geckos. Gecko, of course, is tuko in Filipino — those lizards whose calls sound like they’re mouthing “tuko.” We have a lot of them in the neighborhood. We don’t really see them but we hear them especially at night.
As usual, I’m behind with the news. According to Speedy and Sam, gecko is big business these days because it is reputedly a cure for AIDS — a single gecko sells for tens of thousands of pesos. I listened to their discussion for a while then suggested that, perhaps, we should start catching the geckos roaming around the neighborhood and, you know, start breeding and selling them. Speedy said there was a government warning that trading geckos was illegal. After a few minutes of gecko talk, Alex who has a phobia of lizards, freaked out. So much for gecko talk. I did a little research though after we got home.
Here is a press release from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources:
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 (PAWB), which is under the DENR, is punishable by imprisonment of up to four years…” Paje said.
The DENR secretary issued the statement in light of reports from the Philippines and other Asian countries that geckos are being harvested and sold for their medicinal properties, particularly as aphrodisiacs and as a cures 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 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.
Actually, if you go through RA 9417, collection and trade of wildlife is not exactly illegal. Rather, it is regulated. Meaning, you have to get a permit first. There’s a world of difference between illegal and regulated. Think of murder which is illegal — you can’t a permit that allows you to commit murder and not face the consequences. But collecting, breeding and trading geckos only becomes illegal if you do it without a permit.
How does one get a permit? Under Section 11 of RA 9417, “Wildlife species may be exported to or imported from another country as may be authorized by the Secretary or the designated representative, subject to strict compliance with the provisions of this Act and rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto: Provided, That the recipient of the wildlife is technically and financially capable to maintain it.” Underscore mine.
You see the problem. You have to prove financial capacity. Meaning only the rich can get richer by breeding and exporting geckos. If you’re poor, you can’t get rich trading geckos. The other way of looking at it is that the proof of financial capacity and permit requirement prevent indiscriminate hunting and trading which can adversely affect the ecosystem. So, whether or not the law makes sense depends on whether you’re looking at it from an environmental or business perspective.
Now, if you’re going to look at the gecko trade from an ethical perspective, the bottom line is that gecko cures nothing (at least, according to today’s scientific standards), and breeding and exporting them makes you an accomplice of quack doctors who give false hope to people who are seriously ill and desperate for a cure.
On the other hand, it is also true that, in many cases, placebos have been known to cure people who only need to believe that there is hope and the hopefulness breeds the determination to get well.
Do I still think that breeding and trading geckos is good business? At the moment, yes. But I doubt if you’ll find me catching and actually touching and handling those reptiles. Ewww. So, no, I think I’ll stick to writing about them and the booming gecko trade.