Jakarta, Indonesia, 6th November 2015—A new TRAFFIC report questions the viability of captive-breeding operations given the go-ahead to produce millions of live Tokay Geckos a year for export from Indonesia.
According to the report, Adding up the numbers: An investigation into commercial breeding of Tokay Geckos in Indonesia (PDF, 2 MB), producing such numbers from existing captive breeding operations would be impracticable and the geckos would inevitably end up being sourced from the wild.
Commercial breeding of Tokay Geckos is permitted in Indonesia and in March 2014 the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry announced that they had given permission to six companies to export a total of over three million live captive-bred Tokay Geckos a year for the pet trade.
According to the report, captive breeding operations on this scale would require significant financial investments, huge premises and large numbers of staff and simply be unprofitable.
The scale of the challenge to captive breed 1 million Tokay Geockos
The researchers calculated that in order to produce one million adult-sized geckos a year, a captive breeding facility would require 140,000 breeding female geckos and 14,000 male geckos. It would also need 30,000 incubation containers in continuous use annually, 112,000 rearing cages and a 100 percent hatchling survival rate. The captive breeding facilities would also need hundreds of staff and a constant supply of food in order to provide basic care for the geckos. Yet to be profitable, it would need to cost less than USD1.90 to produce and export each live gecko.
“Given the investment needed, it’s clearly impossible to maintain and breed Tokay Geckos year-round on the scale required and still make a profit,” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
“Traders we spoke to said it wasn’t likely or even a financially attractive proposition to do so: the inescapable conclusion is that to meet export quotas, large numbers of geckos would be taken from the wild and laundered into international trade, falsely declared as being captive-bred.”
Indonesia controls the trade in Tokay Geckos taken from the wild by setting an annual harvest and export quota. In 2006, one of the companies recently given permission to export 1 million live geckos was estimated to have exported some 390,000 wild-caught, dried geckos, in violation both of the agreed purpose (live, as pets) and of the then national allocated quota of 50,000 wild-caught animals. Like the other five companies recently licensed by the Ministry of Forestry, it is not known to have bred Tokay Geckos in commercial numbers nor supplied the pet trade previously.
The authors recommend that applications for permits to captive breed Tokay Geckos commercially are viewed critically. They also urge Indonesia to list the Tokay Gecko in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) with immediate effect, to allow monitoring of the trade from the country, and to consider the merits of a listing in Appendix II of the Convention to enable greater regulation of the international trade.
"With millions of Tokay Geckos being traded internationally, and wild populations being negatively affected throughout Southeast Asia, it is vital to ensure that levels of trade are not detrimental to the species’s survival,” said Professor Vincent Nijman of Oxford Brookes University.
Tokay Geckos have been traded for use in traditional medicine for centuries throughout Asia, but experienced a sudden and massive surge in demand in 2009 following rumours they could cure HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization has since issued statements denying this claim. The species is also popularly kept as a pet.