ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Port authorities here have tightened the watch against shipment of wildlife animals, particularly geckos, through this city’s international port.

This came after the port police here have intercepted several shipments of live geckos from the city to nearby Malaysia via the province of Tawi-Tawi, an environment official said.

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Tito Gadon, chief of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office-West, said the port police headed by Superintendent Bernardo Gartalla have intercepted shipment of at least 300 geckos since June.

Gadon said the latest shipment was intercepted by the port police last week wherein 10 live geckos were confiscated.

He said the confiscated geckos were placed in bottles concealed in boxes and shipped like ordinary luggage of passengers.

The shippers of these intercepted geckos have escaped arrest since they usually abandon the cargo upon seeing the presence of law enforcers inspecting the ship.

Shipment of geckos is strictly prohibited under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Gadon said the geckos are reportedly sold at high price in foreign shores. The animals are used for medical purposes, he said.

The geckos that were confiscated at the local port here were returned to their natural habitat, the environment official said.

Authorities learned that the geckos that are being shipped to Malaysia came from Davao, Dumaguete, Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan province.

Geckos, as described in the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, are small to average-sized lizards belonging to the family of Gekkonidae, found in warm climates throughout the world.

It said that geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalization, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos.

An estimated 2,000 different species of geckos exist worldwide, with many likely yet to be discovered.

The name stems from the Indonesian-Javanese word Tokek, inspired by the sound these animals make. (Bong Garcia)