While recent reports of people offering to pay Bt1 million for a gecko that was about 17.5 inches long might smack of a hoax, some Thai villagers do indeed rear and sell large lizards for their tails, which are believed to have medicinal properties to treat serious ailments.
Sunthorn Chaiwattana, an expert at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the department never had a report of such a large gecko.
“The longest ones found are only 13 to 14 inches long. There might be 17 or 18inch ones but we have never seen them and there is no information in the system to support their existence,” he said, adding that the expensive price tag might also be true as it was a matter purely based on choice by both parties in the trade.
Sunthorn, however, said that while many people in the Northeast ran “gecko farms”, any exports had to be notified to the authorities due to the species’ status allowing it to be traded only if a proper permit is obtained in the originating country.
Geckos can bring in healthy profits for breeders, with demand high in China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Villagers in Ban Rai Srisuthat in Maha Sarakham’s Wapi Pathum are encouraged to rear and sell geckos for profit, while residents of Ban Nai Tan in Nakhon Phanom’s Na Wa district have carried out captive breeding of geckos for export to China and Taiwan for nearly 20 years, generating at least Bt20 million a year.
In Ban Sob Fa Moo 7 and Ban Hong Lee Moo 5 in Lampang’s Chae Hom district, geckos are reared in large cages or containers as a sideline to traditional crop farming. Fed with crickets and special food, geckos can weigh over 500 grams in four months. When grown to 1516 inches long, they are ready to be sold at Bt10,000 each.
Krabi’s Khao Phanom district resident Aree Detraksa said she bought breeding geckos from the Northeast to raise at her home eight months ago on the suggestion of her daughter who worked in Malaysia and earned about Bt5,000 to Bt10,000 a month.
Wildlife monitoring organisation TRAFFIC has urged the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to impose stricter controls on the international gecko trade.
The NGO said there was no evidence of the gecko’s efficacy as an aphrodisiac or in treating illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/Aids, and these uses could pose a danger to the species.
The latest gecko episode stemmed from Pathomporn Khunchan, a man from Songkhla’s Hat Yai district, who said a Malaysian investor was willing to pay Bt1 million to buy a live gecko in healthy condition which was more than 17.5 inches long.
He said that investors had earlier sent two representatives to inspect a gecko that a Tak supplier claimed to have.
He was about to buy air tickets from Hat Yai to Tak when the supplier refused to send a picture of the gecko and insisted on a Bt200,000 advance payment.
The representatives were unsure about the existence of the lengthy gecko, cancelled the deal and returned to Malaysia.
“The fact that the investor sent representatives to Thailand in the hope of buying the gecko showed that the deal was real. They would not waste money buying plane tickets and pay for accommodation and other expenses if they didn’t mean it,” Pathomporn said.
Meanwhile, A Bangkok taxi driver was arrested early Monday after demanding a “ransom” of B3,000 for an iPhone 6 that a passenger had left in his car.
Mongkol Srijunphan, 26, was arrested in a sting operation in the middle of Soi Thonglor 13 at 3.30am.
Police planned the arrest after the phone owner filed a complaint at Thonglor station.
The woman told police she’d forgotten the phone on the rear passenger seat after riding with a friend from the Rama III Road area to Soi Sukhumvit 31 at 1.15.
She called her phone and found it turned off, but remembered the taxi’s licence plate number.
While speaking to police, she received a phone call from the driver, who demanded Bt3,000 in exchange for the smartphone. If she didn’t pay, he threatened to sell it.
At the direction of police, the woman arranged to meet the cabbie on Soi 13 to make the exchange. He was soon arrested and charged with extortion.