[PHOTO] Giant tuko (tokay gecko) sold for $20 million?

James Ryan Jonas

Giant gecko tuko tokek - Indonesia, Philippines, MalaysiaTuko for sale!
We buy geckos for millions of pesos!
You’ve probably seen such lines in classified ads websites, watched the reports on TV about the supposed “tuko trading,” or heard the rumor from a neighbor or friend, but is it really true?
Can tokay geckos or tuko — supposedly with their medicinal properties that can cure AIDS or HIV — really be sold for hundreds of thousands or even millions of pesos?
PinoyMoneyTalk did a bit of online research and it seems to us that the current frenzy over the sale and trade of tuko in the Philippines stemmed from a news report published more than a year ago in an Indonesian newspaper claiming that a 64-kg gecko was sold for $20 million.
According to a report by Indonesia’s Tribun Kaltim newspaper in May 2010:

A giant gecko weighing 64 kilograms, found in Nunukan-Malaysia border in Kalakbakan, was eventually sold for RM 64 million ($20 million).

Accompanying the news report is a picture supposedly of the giant gecko (shown above).
Surprisingly, The Jakarta Post — the largest English language newspaper in Indonesia — picked up the story without providing additional details or verifying if the astonishing story is indeed true:

A giant gecko, weighing 64 kilograms, was recently found in Kalakbakan, Malaysia – an area that shares a border with Indonesia – and was sold for RM64 million (US$19.5 million), Tribun Kaltim newspaper reported Friday.
“The gecko has been sold for RM1 million per kilogram,” said Arbin, who took a picture of the animal. “The buyer was an Indonesian who later took it overseas, maybe to China.”
Tribun reported that despite the gecko having been sold, its editorial office and journalists received calls all Friday from “businesspeople” who wanted to bid higher prices.
Arbin said the gecko was found by a local teenager in a forest in Kalakbakan.

Fact or fiction? Real image or photoshopped?
We don’t know. But the cynic in us has these questions:

  • If the 64-kg gecko in the picture is indeed true, why is it not caged or tied? Shouldn’t a giant creature like that be tied so as not to attack people (or that diminutive cat beside it)?
  • The story was reported in May 2010, more than a year ago. Why are there no other pictures or videos of the creature? At 64 kilograms, this would have already earned the title of Guinness World Record for largest gecko!
  • If it was indeed brought to China, why did the Indonesian immigration allowed its export? A giant animal such as that would have been a national treasure and should be protected because it is rare.

The news report may be a hoax but nevertheless it provided us with an interesting discovery: regardless of the country, the animal’s name is derived from the sound it is producing. Filipinos call the gecko tuko, the Americans call it tokay, the Indonesians call it tokek, while the Vietnamese call it tac ke.
That trivia may not be worth $20 million but it’s still one priceless piece of interesting information.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.