Geckos, a lucrative business in Kelantan and the southern Thailand provinces, are being injected with silicone so that traders can put a much bigger price tag on the reptiles.
In Kelantan, rumours have spread like wildfire that the gecko is a cure for major diseases such as HIV/AIDS and this has caused prices for the reptile to shoot up.
A gecko trader who wanted to be known only as Azli said the silicone injections ploy had been uncovered only recently after a number of geckos bought from suppliers across the border died a few days after being purchased.
Upon further checks, he said it was found that the gecko had been injected with silicone and salt powder to make it big before the sale.
"The expert also suspected that the gecko had died of an overdose of silicone," said Azli, 45, from Rantau Panjang.
He said he had bought the "fake" gecko after receiving photographs from a supplier via an email in November.
"I went to Sungai Golok to take delivery of the lizard and paid the high price as the gecko was big. A buyer was already waiting to buy it from me later. But, the gecko died a few days after I brought it back home," he said.
Azli said he believed there were 10 gecko suppliers across the border taking advantage of Malaysians' interest in the reptiles.
He said locals should not simply pay if they were offered large-sized geckos, especially if the price was unreasonably high.
Meanwhile, state Wildlife Department director Rahmat Topani confirmed that syndicates were involved in producing the unusually big geckos through artificial means.
"I have been told that some victims were cheated of up to RM100,000 by a syndicate, which targets rich buyers. As far as I know, the geckos have no medical benefit at all and it does not cure illnesses," he said.
A recent report had quoted a medical practitioner in the Philippines, Dr Ofelia Monzon as saying that the lizard -- which he had referred to as the tuko (Philippine gecko) -- had not been proven to cure serious ailments like cancer, HIV and AIDS.