Image: Neil D’Cruze

A massive illegal wildlife scam reveals people selling dried monitor lizard penises as “Hatha Jodi” — a rare Indian plant root used in some traditional practices.

This new development in illegal wildlife trade not only includes small dealers in India through grocery stores and spiritual shops — but major online retailers including Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, Snapdeal, and Etsy among others. 

The root is thought to bring good luck to holders, but itself is very rare, found only in a few sacred sites in Lumbini valley in Nepal and Amarkantak hills in central India, as stated in an article by Mongabay. An investigation and subsequent laboratory tests reveal that the Hatha Jodi being sold are actually dried penises of the Bengal monitor lizard (Varanus bengalensis) and the Yellow monitor lizard (Varanus flavescens). In addition, a few plastic replicas were found as well.

All species of monitor lizards in India are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection act, making the activity of capturing, killing, and removing the genitals from these lizards highly illegal.

These sellers are implementing monitor lizards because they are easier to find in the wild than the real Hatha Jodi plant, which some have their suspicions even exists.

“We were shocked at the sheer audacity and scale of this illegal wildlife trade,” lead scientist Dr Neil D’Cruze said in a statement. “Deceitful dealers claiming to sell holy plant root labelled as “Hatha Jodi”, are in fact peddling dried lizard penis to their unwitting customers. These illegal items are readily available in the UK and USA with potential street value of £50,000 GBP.”

This massive scam serves as a real threat to the survival of the monitor lizard species.

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