| Selling geckos without a permit can be punishable for up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $6,900 [GETTY]
The Philippine government has warned against using geckos to treat various diseases, including Aids and cancer, saying the traditional and common practice across southeast Asia could put the ill at greater risk.
A Philippine health department statement said on Friday that the use of geckos as treatments had no scientific basis and could be dangerous because patients might not seek proper treatment for their diseases.
"This is likely to aggravate their overall health and put them at greater risk,'' it said.
Treatments for asthma are easily available and affordable, while there are antiviral drugs to control the progress of HIV, the statement added.
Geckos are commonly exported to Malaysia, China, Japan, and South Korea, where they are used as aphrodisiacs and as traditional medicine for asthma, Aids, cancer, tuberculosis and impotence.
Environmental officials have also voiced fears about the growing trade in the lizards in the Philippines, where large geckos can sell for more than $1,000.
Geckos are carnivorous, nocturnal reptiles that are found in tropical countries. They are known for their sticky footpads that allow them to climb vertical surfaces, including glass.
Mundita Limm, a wildlife official, said her office has asked law enforcers to look into the possibility that scammers may have infiltrated the trade because of the unusually high prices being quoted online by buyers demanding geckos weighing at least 400 grams.
She said geckos in the wild grow up to 200 grams, while those fattened in captivity can grow only up to 300 grams.
Ramon Paje, environment secretary, earlier warned that collecting and selling geckos without a permit can be punishable by up to four years in jail and a fine of up to $6,900.
He also said a healthy population of geckos is needed to regulate pests and maintain the fragile ecosystem. Geckos feed on insects and worms. Larger species of the lizard hunt small birds and rodents.