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FLORA AND FAUNA
Indonesian, 83, faced 'fight for survival' in Komodo attack
by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) April 11, 2013


Asian gecko threatened by medicine trade: TRAFFIC
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) April 11, 2013 - Activists warned Thursday that wild populations of Southeast Asia's striking Tokay Gecko were in danger of being over-hunted for use in traditional medicine in China and other countries.

Calling the trade "colossal", wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC called on authorities in the region to implement tougher regulations and limits on commerce involving the lizard, the second-largest gecko species.

"The majority of Tokay Geckos consumed as part of this trade are harvested from the wild," said a new TRAFFIC study.

It added that despite high reproductive rates and adaptability, Tokay Gecko populations "are still susceptible to over-harvesting" and said population declines have been reported in countries like Thailand and Indonesia.

The Tokay Gecko measures up to 40 centimetres (15 inches) long and over 300 grams (11 ounces) in weight and is distinguished by a brilliant coating of spots that range from bright yellow to red and its loud croaking call.

It ranges throughout Southeast Asia and is not a protected species in most countries.

It is used in traditional medicines in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam to treat asthma, diabetes and other ailments, TRAFFIC said, adding that an individual specimen can command hundreds of dollars.

TRAFFIC said while the overall volume of the trade was not known, import data showed Taiwan alone has imported 15 million of the geckos since 2004.

Trade accelerated in recent years amid rumours the geckos could help cure AIDS, which the World Health Organization has refuted.

TRAFFIC said that belief has since faded but the traditional-medicine trade continued, and called for research to gauge the impact on wild populations.

An 83-year-old Indonesian woman told Thursday how she faced a "fight for survival" when a Komodo dragon pounced and sunk its teeth into her, in the latest attack this year by one of the giant lizards.

Haisah was sitting on the ground outside her house on Rinca island, one of several Komodo-inhabited islands frequently visited by tourists, making a broom from a coconut tree, when the two-metre (6.6-foot) reptile sprang at her.

"All of a sudden, a Komodo bit my right hand," she told AFP from her bed in hospital where she has been receiving treatment since the attack. "I have no idea which direction it came from."

"A knife fell from my right hand as the Komodo sunk its teeth into my wrist. There was nobody else around and I knew that I faced a fight for survival."

But the elderly lady managed to repel the attack: "I kicked the Komodo on one its front legs with all my strength, it was only one kick but it made the Komodo let go of my hand, then I screamed for help."

Haisah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, spoke to AFP through her son who translated the locally spoken language into Indonesian.

Her wrist was seriously wounded during Tuesday's attack in her small village and she needed a total of 35 stitches at the hospital in the nearby town of Labuan Bajo, said her son.

"I'm doing fine now. I hope my hand will return to normal so that I can make brooms again," she said, adding limited movement had returned to her hand after it was initially paralysed.

In February, one of the reptiles bit a tour guide's leg when he passed its lair while trekking on Rinca island.

Earlier the same month, one attacked two employees of the Komodo National Park, inflicting serious injuries which needed hospital treatment.

Until recently, Komodos were believed to hunt with a "bite and wait" strategy -- using toxic bacteria in their saliva to weaken or kill their prey before descending in numbers to feast.

But recent research found that the dragons' jaws have highly sophisticated poison glands that can cause paralysis, spasms and shock through haemorrhaging.

They are native to several Indonesian islands, where their habitat is protected, and are considered a vulnerable species, with only a few thousand left in the world.

The world's largest monitor lizards, they can grow up to three metres and weigh up to 70 kilograms (154 pounds).

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