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Tokay gecko seizures on the rise in Guwahati

“City a transit point for smuggling species to Myanmar, China”

GUWAHATI: Tokay gecko seizures in the city have increased over the years with the endangered reptile species, in high demand for its reported medicinal value, being smuggled to states such as Nagaland and Manipur en route to Myanmar.

The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau here seized seven tokay geckos from two persons in the Jalukbari area of the city on Monday. The two, suspected to be wildlife smugglers, been arrested and are being interrogated.

“The trend of seizures of tokay geckos in the city has been showing a rising trend of late. Besides, over the past few months, we have carried out several operations made substantial seizures and arrests in Nagaon and Dhemaji districts in particular,” K.K. Sarma, the assistant director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, sub regional office here, told The Shillong Times on Tuesday.

The Guwahati Wildlife Division of the state forest department has also made a couple of seizures in the city a few days back.

“Seizures of the reptile species have increased here as the city is a transit point for smugglers. This is a clandestine trade with a network spreading to Myanmar and China. From here, it is reportedly transported to places in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Myanmar en route to Myanmar and China,” a senior forest official said.

The fact that it the reptile is small in size makes it easy for the smugglers to transport them.

“The smugglers normally carry the reptiles in plastic cases with holes or with holes bored into them, so that they can breathe and be fed as well during the transit period,” he said.

Sources say there is high demand for tokay geckos in China as the reptiles are used in making traditional medicine, reportedly to cure several diseases.

An adult gecko grown up to 40cm might fetch up to Rs 20 lakh.

The ministry of environment and forests had declared tokay gecko as a protected species in 2014.

However, sources said that despite the reptile being included in Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act as an endangered species, because of its non-inclusion in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, it remains deprived from adequate legal protection.

Such is the demand for the species that clandestine breeding centres have reportedly mushroomed in high-altitude locations along the state’s border with Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Manipur.

“We have information of breeding centres existing in the Silapathar area of Assam which is not too far from the Arunachal border,” Sarma said.

The rescued reptiles are normally released in the forests after completion of official formalities by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.

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