Category Archives: Creatures in the Philippines

The price of a “tuko” or tokay gecko (Part 2); or “Tuko” and Tokay Gecko Scams

A week ago, I posted a blog “The price of a “tuko” or tokay gecko” about my Filpino father’s handyman fattening up a tokay gecko to 300 grams so he can sell it for PhP600,000.  The price, to me, seemed an outrageously huge amount for a loudmouth, but oh so cool, pet. So I went online to look at prices for this lizard.  It turns out that they don’t sell for that much.  And that most of the prices on buy-and-sell ads for tokays are hyped up, or worse, they are part of a scam.

Anyone can fall victim to the tuko scam. A posting on a blog, TJSDaily, explains in detail a scam scenario.  But basically here is how it goes:

ConArtist #1 either posts an ad, or mentions casually to would-be victim, that he wants to buy a 300 gram, or heavier, tokay.  He cites an outrageously large amount that he’s willing to pay for it, and leaves his cellphone number.  Potential victim doesn’t have a tokay, but informs ConArtist 1 that he’ll keep an out eye for one.

Enter ConArtist #2, ConArtist #1’s accomplice, who’s selling a tokay for a large sum, but still a small fraction compared to what ConArtist 1 is offering.  Wanting to make a huge profit, victim contacts ConArtist 1 saying he has the tokay.  Victim buys tokay from ConArtist#2.  Both ConArtists #1 and #2 disappear, their cellphones disconnected.  Victim is left with a worthless merchandise.

This modus operandi is nothing new, and not unique to tokays.  Four years ago, a rich widow had been scammed millions using the same M.O. but involving supposedly expensive pearl oyster feed.  Both buyer and seller disappeared after the widow paid the seller.  The packaged “feed” was actually liver pate or spread.

Scams and scammers come in all shapes and sizes.  The lesson here is if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The price of a “tuko” or tokay gecko

My Filipino father’s handyman said he caught a tuko, or tokay gecko, from his backyard in the provinces.  The tokay gecko is a lizard that produces a loud mating call that sounds a lot like it’s local name “tuko”  (pronounced “took”  – “owe”).  With the help of a pet store owner, he’s been fattening it up to 300 grams so he can sell it.

Tokay Gecko photo from Wikipedia

I asked the pet store owner how much is it worth when it’s 300 grams.  He said, “600.” I asked, “600 pesos?”  He replied, “No, Six hundred thousand pesos.”  I was stunned, and annoyed too.  “Well that sucks!  That darn lizard has more net worth than I do!”

The store owner said he has a potential buyer, an American researcher, who will purchase the tokay once it reaches 300 grams. He said he was told by this researcher buyer that during the bombing of Hiroshima Japan during World War II, nothing survived except for the tokay.  So scientists are looking as to what properties made the tokay survive despite the massive dose of radiation.  They would then use the findings into improving longevity and youth among humans.  And the bigger the tokay, the better, as they have more flesh to could sample.

I don’t know if this is true. I think a more likely scenario is some guy with money to burn wants to have this cool loudmouth lizard as a pet.  It could be that the tokay-for-research story was made up to take advantage of a loop hole in the law about wildlife trade that would make the purchase legal.