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A multi-million dollar international smuggling hub for endangered lizard

According to intelligence, price for each living Gecko reaches over Rs 80 lakh depending upon size and weight. This makes the animal too vulnerable.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Mar 31, 2017, 01.52 AM IST
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As believed, the animal is mostly used as a pet or to prepare alternative medicines.
As believed, the animal is mostly used as a pet or to prepare alternative medicines.
SILIGURI: If the recent seizures are any indication, Siliguri, with its unique location, continues to be a preferred route for illegal high value international trade of a highly endangered lizard, 'Tokay Gecko'. Each one of the live animal carries a multi million price tag in international market.

Acting on a tip off, Indian Paramilitary force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), that guards Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan international border, has seized three Geckos alive and arrested four in this connection on Wednesday. According to SSB spokesman A. Bhattacharyee, price of these three animals put together is around Rs 2.25 crore.

This is just one of many similar seizures taken place from nearby localities in recent past. "High population of the animal in north East India to foothills forests in West Bengal makes the region a supply zone. Siliguri, with its vicinity to three international borders within 50 kms, plays the role of conduit for the smuggled animals to get into international market via Nepal, Bhutan or even Bangladesh," said security agency officials.

According to intelligence, price for each living Gecko reaches over Rs 80 lakh depending upon size and weight. This makes the animal too vulnerable. Many times, low weight Geckos are injected with mercury to make them heavier though that kills the animal within couple of days.

As believed, the animal is mostly used as a pet or to prepare alternative medicines. But a section of environment activists suspect it to be a subject of high profile advanced space, defense or medical research labs now.

"Gecko has been included into Schedule III, of Indian Wildlife Protection Act as highly endangered animal. But, not yet included into International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list. Thus, does not enjoy very strong worldwide legal protection," said Conservator of Forest(Wild Life) S Ghatak. As not listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), its international trade is also not regulated.

Commercial breeding and trade of live gecko is allowed in Indonesia. But, TRAFFICK, an international scale wildlife monitoring NGO, found that captive breeding centers there launder wild caught animals instead of breeding them at large scale to save heavy logistic expenses.

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