Railway cops arrest 10 while smuggling rare Tokay Gecko Lizards

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASilchar: Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel on Sunday arrested 10 persons from Silchar railway station and rescued five tokay gecko lizards from their possession. The reptiles were to be smuggled to Myanmar, a source said.

tokay-gecko500Sources on Monday said of the 10 persons arrested, two are residents of Mizoram and eight others are from Tipura. All of them arrived at the Silchar railway station by the Agartala-Silchar Passenger train at 10 pm on Sunday. As the accused decided to spend the night at the platform itself, it roused the suspicion of RPF and GRP personnel who questioned them. Subsequently, a search by the security personnel led to the recovery of the five tokay geckos from their possession. They were immediately arrested as possession of tokay geckos is punishable under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, an official said.

Those arrested have been identified as Thanpuia Mizo (40), Kehakla Reang (27), both residents of Aizawl and Mamit in Mizoram, and Mehanjay Reang (29), Dipankar Reang (19), Dhanjay Reang (27), Rathindra Debbarma(48), Tansai Reang (40), Ornaman Reang (35), Kaonglaha Reang (27) and Mukamkima Reang (47), who hail from the Kanchanpur area in Tripura.

RPF and GRP later handed over all the arrested persons and five rescued lizards to Tarapur police outpost. The 10 accused were later produced in a local court which remanded them in judicial custody. The lizards will be set free in the Barail reserve forest, the official said. During interrogation the arrested persons revealed that they caught the tokay geckoes from different places in Tripura and Mizoram.

The Endandered Tokay Gecko – The Million Rupee Reptile:

The Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) is one of the largest geckos in the country and the world; at about 15 inches the males are gigantic! This is a nocturnal arboreal gecko, ranging from northeast India, to Nepal and Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, Philippines to Indonesia and western New Guinea. They are very colourful lizards too.

Occurring in the rainforests, it is primarily a tree-dweller. However, they have adapted well to human habitations where they can be seen on walls of houses, hiding in a variety of places during the day. Their call which is a loud ‘to-kay’ can be heard from afar and gives them their name. In captivity, the Tokays are known to live for as long as 18 years however they live for 7-10 years under natural conditions.

In recent times, however, the survival of the Tokay Gecko is seriously threatened. Increasing urbanization is reducing its range. But more threatening is the massive trade across its range because of unfounded claims as a cure for AIDS. In India (especially the Northeast) with upto a million rupees being offered for a Tokay Gecko, for many it has now become lucrative to trade in these lizards.

According to TRAFFIC, the Tokay Gecko remains poorly protected by national legislation throughout most of its range and is not listed for protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).