'Tuko' trade a scam?

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jul 14 2011 11:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2011 06:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The burgeoning illegal trade of 'tuko' or gecko in the Philippines, which reportedly involves large sums of money, has prompted authorities to look into the matter.

Initial investigations by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yielded no confirmed sellers or buyers of geckos, leading the bureau to suspect that the trade may be a hoax or scam.

Atty. Sixto Comia, chief of the NBI's Environment and Wildlife Protection Investigation Division, warned online buyers that transactions done over the Internet may just be a scheme of a crime syndicate.

Comia compared the modus operandi to that of the "Budol-Budol" Gang.

"'Yung subject nila bibili 'yan ng maraming tuko sa buyer. Kapag ibebenta na ng subject ang tuko sa buyer, wala na 'yung buyer. Parang 'Budol-Budol'," said Comia.

Gecko collector "Rudy" (not his real name) sells geckos at P300 each.

P500 milion for 400-gram geckos?

"Maraming gusto mag-alaga niyan dahil kapag napalaki nila, maraming presyo na," said Rudy.

There are reports that geckos that weigh 400 grams can sell to up to P500 million.

Investigations by NBI, meanwhile, showed that geckos in the Philippines can only reach up to 100 grams.

It is also impossible that a single gecko could be worth millions of pesos, said the NBI.

Collectors of geckos can face charges of violating Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Health issues

Speculations have been circulating that enzymes produced from the geckos' gall bladders can cure diseases, sparking the illegal trade.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier dismissed rumors that geckos can cure AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

DOH spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag has also warned the public that consuming geckos may cause food poisoning.

The health department also stressed that there is no medical or scientific basis that eating geckos can cure ailments like AIDS and asthma.

A specialist on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) also dispelled the rumor.

"There are no scientific evidence that is published on the Internet or even in our journals or books saying that ang enzymes na galing sa tuko (gecko) ay nakakagamot nga," Dr. Jose Gerald Belimac said. -- With reports from Maan Macapagal and Sol Aragones, ABS-CBN News