Lizard on a Stick

Lizard on a stick
Dried lizards for sale in Vancouver’s Chinatown in 2007.

I saw these reptilian delicacies for sale in Vancouver’s Chinatown while visiting way back in 2007. Nobody believes me anytime I mention flayed lizard for sale so here it is—photographic proof! These are likely to be tokay geckos, a species used in traditional Chinese medicine for various indications, “male endurance” among them. They aren’t eaten whole—they are boiled along with various other ingredients to make a soup.

Demand is so great that tokay geckos are now being hunted to extinction in some parts of Southeast Asia, particularly after bogus claims that tokay geckos cure HIV/AIDS gained traction in online media.

Oddly enough, despite living in culturally Chinese parts of Asia for more than a year I haven’t yet seen tokay geckos outside any of the shops I have wandered by. I’ve seen snake, crocodile, and turtle for sale at various night markets but no gecko or lizard soup. I can’t say I’ve looked very hard—but in Canada they’re hanging out on the street, visible to anyone passing by.

It probably goes without saying that I emphatically disagree with this practice. I don’t care if it’s “traditional” (and even that is in doubt), hunting species to near-extinction for “medicinal” purposes is obviously wrong—regardless of cultural context. Take a gander at this list of traditional Chinese medicines to see what else is on the menu.