Even as the International Day for Biological Diversity was celebrated on Tuesday, the Border Security Force (BSF) seized three tokay geckos from West Bengal’s Malda and Murshidabad districts. The smugglers were carrying the geckos in wire mesh cages concealed in nylon carrybags when they were intercepted by a BSF patrol party and handed over to the Divisional Forest Officer, Malda. While six tokay geckos have been seized by the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF in 2018, the Siliguri Frontier of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in north Bengal seized 24 tokay geckos between November 2017 and April 2018.
More than 100
The tokay gecko or gekko gecko, a lizard species with orange-spotted blue-grey skin, is protected under the Schedule III of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. Data made available by the SSB says more than 100 tokay geckos were seized between 2014 and 2017 across its different frontiers.
Abrar Ahmed, an expert on wildlife smuggling and former consultant with NGO Traffic International, which monitors trade in wildlife, said that seizures at border checkpoints would yield no results unless there was some intervention at the forests and habitats from where the animal was seized. He added that the smugglers raised false hype about the medicinal value of these wildlife species to create a demand for them both within and outside India.
Agni Mitra, Regional Deputy Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, a statutory government body, said that it was because of the spurt in smuggling that tokay geckos were brought under the Schedule III. He said geckos above 13 cm in length and over 350 grams in weight fetch exorbitantly high prices in China and parts of South Asia.