S IEM REAP - Lizard traders from Takeo smuggled ten cane basketsful of more than
2,000 big geckos on a fast boat from this province to Vietnam earlier this
The Post witnessed the haul and spoke to the traders, who
confirmed they are now hunting further and further afield because the reptiles
are becoming more scarce and difficult to find.
One anonymous trader said
they had caught almost all the lizards in nearby provinces, including Takeo, and
had now been traveling to remote parts of Cambodia to hunt the
"Only Preah Vihear, Rattanakiri, Mondolkiri, Siem Reap and a
few other remote provinces still have not been hunted," he said.
fourth trip to Siem Reap, the farmer-turned-gecko trader said they were taking
the animals to middlemen in their home province who would re-sell them to
Vietnam, where the geckos are used to make medicinal wine for curing asthma and
In only four or five days, he said, the local men and
boys in Siem Reap hunted more than 1,000 geckos and sold them for 500 riels
each. In the neighboring province of Kompong Thom, Reasmei Kampuchea reported
that people had been "surprisingly" selling geckos to traders who took them to
Phnom Penh, or Vietnam.
A Siem Reap resident revealed that during the
Khmer Rouge regime people were told to catch the geckos to be exchanged for
"sewing machines" from China.
Apparently, the gecko trade is more easily
"smoothed over" with payments to officials - unlike "officially forbidden" trade
in some other animal species such as snakes or tortoises.
traders said they had just paid up to 40,000 riels to some "strict checkpoints"
so they would be able to transport the lizards easily.
At Kompong Luang
port in Pursat, they paid 30,000 riels to fishery police.
In addition to
asthma healing, gecko wine is traditionally used to improve "muscles and
concentration" and used by soldiers to help them concentrate better on fighting
and not think about their families at home, herbalists told the Post.