Ecologists report: The pet and drug trade affecting the Tokai gecko population

Ecologists report: The pet and drug trade affecting the Tokai gecko population

Tokai gecko (Gekko gecko reevesii) on a tree in its habitat. Credit: Yik-Hei Sung

Tokai geckos are one of the most attractive species of reptiles in Asia and the second largest species of gecko in the world. It is also one of the most traded reptiles, with millions exported annually from Southeast Asia, mostly dried commodities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but it also survives in the pet trade. In Hong Kong, Tokai geckos can be found in the wild, where they have benefited from a protected status since 2021, but also in pet stores and traditional Chinese medicine markets. However, little is known about the effects of the trade on the local Tokai people nor the extent to which the TCM market affected Tokai geckos via its distribution.

New research from the Conservation Forensic Laboratory at the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) School of Biological Sciences looks at the origins of Hong Kong’s Tokai Geckos, both wild and sold in traditional Chinese medicine stores. The results have just been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Dr.. Pauline Dufour, then Ph.D. A student and now in a post-doctoral position at the University of Hong Kong, the research was led by Dr. Timothy Bunbrik (HKU) and Dr. Caroline Dingle (HKU) Wick-Hee Sung (Lingnan University).

The project

The project aims to answer three main questions: (1) Where do TCM tokay geckos sold in Hong Kong come from? (2) In what circumstances were they brought up? and (3) where did the Hong Kong wild tokens originate?

To answer these questions, the research team used a combination of field and laboratory methods. They first collected tissue samples from wild Tokai Geckos through Hong Kong, and from dried individuals sold in traditional Chinese medicine stores. Using genetic analysis, they compared their DNA sequences with sequences from across Asia. They found that nearly all TCM tokens originated from Southeast Asia, not Hong Kong wild gatherings. These results are confirmed by a stable isotope analysis that investigates the food source. However, the results revealed the poor traceability of the tokens across the supply chain, as individuals were sold as pairs from two different locations and one label. This was supplemented by interviews with shopkeepers across Hong Kong.

Credit: University of Hong Kong

This study also revealed that two subspecies of tokai gecko existed at the same time in Hong Kong: the gecko gecko and the gecko gecko refssi. The latter group included most of the individuals observed and were genetically closer to populations in southern mainland China. However, there were two population groups in Hong Kong that were more closely related to the population in Southeast Asia (G. pet trade.

Consequences of saving

With millions of Tokai geckos in circulation each year and a very recent (2019) list in CITES Appendix II, this species is more vulnerable than its historical abundance might suggest. While farming has been suggested as a potential solution to over-harvesting, recent reports have shown an unwillingness to operate large farms, feasible or sustainable.

  • Ecologists report: The pet and drug trade affecting the Tokai gecko population

    The team working in the field, takes measurements and pictures of Tokai’s gecko. Credit: Tsz Chun So

  • Ecologists report: The pet and drug trade affecting the Tokai gecko population

    Tokai gecko (Gekko gecko reevesii) holding a stick in the field. Credit: Tsz Ching Kong

“Poaching events, at large or small scales, can have significant effects on the long-term survival of small populations because they reduce genetic diversity and arbitrarily remove adaptation potential, which is critical for species facing multiple challenges. In similar ways, release events It can also lead to short- and long-term disruptions to genetic diversity On a local and global scale, this is why knowledge of population genetics is so urgently needed to assess the status of this species, and appropriate conservation measures throughout its range,” said Dr. Pauline Dufour, first author of the study.

Dr. Yik-Hei Sung, Assistant Professor from Lingnan University, herpetologist, and co-author of the paper also stated that “This study highlights the need for more stringent control over the compassion/release of abandoned pets.” In fact, the pet trade is the main reason for the introduction of exotic reptiles into the world.

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more information:
Pauline C. Dufour et al, Home and Center: The Pet Trade and Traditional Medicine Affects Reptile Populations at Source Locations and Destinations, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rspb.2022.1011

Introduction of
University of Hong Kong

the quote: The Pet and Drug Trade Affecting Tokai Gekko Populations, Environmental Scientists Report (2022, September 14) Retrieved September 14, 2022 from tokay.html

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