Parochial Health Alert for Your Consideration: Leopard Geckos from Overseas

A small but significant number of my potential 6 billion readers should be grateful to The Mornington and Southern Peninsula Mail (Victoria, Australia) for alerting its few thousand readers to the possible dangers (to a small minority of human beings, and to other reptiles) of keeping as pets imported leopard geckos from India, Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Here is their sombre news of 3 June 2009, available on http://www.morningtonpeninsulamail.com.au

Gecko Raid Nets Collector

“A Bittern woman is likely to be charged with keeping adult leopard geckos following a raid by wildlife officers.

Department of Sustainability and Environment investigator Keith Larner said the woman, 41, faced penalties of up to A$110,000 in fines and/or two years in jail for keeping the banned lizards.

DSE and Victoria Police officers obtained a search warrant and raided her home after DSE received an anonymous call to its customer service centre.

Officers found three leopard geckos, which are native to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan and can carry parasitic diseases including cryptosporidium and coccidiosis, which are highly contagious to humans and reptiles.

“We don’t know who called, but we greatly appreciate the information,” Mr Larner said.

He said it was illegal under state and federal legislation to possess, breed, or trade exotic reptiles such as leopard geckos.

“Keeping exotic reptiles is selfish and highly irresponsible,” Mr Larner said. “It’s alarming to see the lengths people will go to just so they can have an exotic pet.”

Consistent with most exotic reptiles seized in Vitoria , the geckos will be euthanised due to the risk of disease.

The leopard gecko has been captive-bred in the United States for more than 30 years and is one of the most comonly kept lizards, with some living to 25 years old.

It comes in a variety of colours, patterns and sizes, and grows up to 28 centimetres long.

Rare coloured geckos can cost $4,000. Collectors are intrigued by its eyelids, ability to wash its eyes with its tongue and a tail that drops off when it is threatened.

Unlike other species of gecko, leopard geckos have small claws instead of adhesive toe pads and cannot climb walls.

(Anyone with information on exotic reptiles held in the community can call the DSE on 136 186. Information will be treated in confidence.)”

*

Interestingly, Wikipedia, less alarmist but more ubiquitous than The Mornington and Southern Peninsula Mail (Victoria, Australia), gives the following information under ‘Cryptosporidiosis’ as an acute short-term infection – except for those with immune system problems. Wikipedia does not, however, duplicate this information in its article on ‘Leopard Gecko’. But any observant Wiki-serf can rectify that in a couple of minutes.

“Cryptosporidiosis, also known as crypto,[1] is a parasitic disease caused by Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite in the phylum Apicomplexa. It affects the intestines of mammals and is typically an acute short-term infection. It is spread through the fecal-oral route, often through contaminated water;[1] the main symptom is self-limiting diarrhea in people with intact immune systems. In immunocompromised individuals, such as AIDS patients, the symptoms are particularly severe and often fatal. Cryptosporidium is the organism most commonly isolated in HIV positive patients presenting with diarrhea.”

Wikipedia also classifies ‘Coccidia’ as a human parasite.

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