Claim: A viral message surfaced on WhatsApp urging Nigerians to put a mixture of salt and garlic in the corners of their rooms to eradicate wall gecko. The warning was followed by a story that a wall gecko fell into a pot of soup prepared by a housewife in Nigeria unknown to her and it killed the woman and her 9 children after eating the soup.
Verification has shown that wall geckos are not poisonous; instead, they play an important role in balancing the ecosystem, even though the garlic and salt mixture can scare wall geckos, it will increase their production.
A viral message surfaced on WhatsApp urging Nigerians to put a mixture of salt and garlic in the corners of their rooms to eradicate wall gecko, with the story that a wall gecko fell into a pot of soup prepared by a housewife in Nigeria unknown to her and killed the woman and her nine children after eating the soup.
It reads, “Slippery House Lizard known as Wall Gecko also called Omonle in Yoruba fell into a pot of soup prepared by a housewife in Nigeria unknowingly and it killed the woman and her 9 children after eating.
“Another woman who prepared Tea in a kettle which the gecko fell into, all the family that drank the tea died.
“Please ensure your food, cooked or raw is tightly closed as this animal is highly poisonous, it also goes with “aljanus” (jinns) – verifiable.
Therefore do everything possible to get rid of this dangerous animal from your home.”
The claim particularly notes that “the reptile goes with jinns and it’s highly poisonous and it is verifiable.” Dubawa opted to verify the authenticity of this claim.
A keyword search revealed that the claim has been in circulation since 2017, as a news item in Nigeria, the Sun Newspaper categorically alerted Nigerians to kill wall geckos because investigation has shown that the reptile is harmful.
The newspaper warned vividly: “Ordinarily, the skin of the gecko is highly poisonous…To eradicate it in your home, just mix salt and garlic and put mixture in different corners of your room. You will never see them again.”
A response on 9 May 2018 from Udonsi Eke on Nature Cures Initiative Facebook post questioned the credibility of the claim “But I remember eating a wall gecko that was roasted just to make me stop bedwetting in my childhood days. So is this information true?”
Are wall geckos truly harmful?
Animal diversity website describes a wall gecko as a tree-living terrestrial species, living in human-populated areas. A reptile that originated from Southeast Asia but is currently found almost everywhere across the globe. It says wall geckos occur on buildings, mostly near artificial lighting because they are nocturnal insectivores.
With the simple description of this uninvolved reptile that feeds mainly on insects, Dubawa felt the urge to get the thought of an expert, Mrs. Emudiare Tailobi, a zoologist from the University of Jos.
“Wall geckos aren’t venomous, that’s a fact,” Mrs. Emudiare said over the phone, adding that although they can carry some harmful bacteria in their mouths that are detrimental to human health, the reptile is naturally harmless.
Mrs. Tialobi explained that “Wall geckos are not toxic, but they may have picked up harmful bacterias that in large amounts can cause harm to humans.”
Dubawa went further to get more insight from a biologist, Mrs. Nanchin Winifred Kazeh from Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) Jos-east Laminga via WhatsApp, and she affirmed that wall geckos are not poisonous
Is it true that the salt and garlic mixture can eradicate wall geckos?
A conversation with a biologist/ornithologist, Nanchin Winifred Kazeh of A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), Jos-east on WhatsApp revealed that the smell of garlic and salt mixture wards off wall geckos.
Mrs. Kazeh said that wall geckos feed on insects such as lizards, nectars, and spiders. And since light attracts insects, wall geckos are found on buildings with artificial lighting, as it helps them spot their prey easily.
“The wall geckos play a very important role in balancing the ecosystem. Yes, their appearance scares most people, but all the protective measures put up by humans only aid the reptile to adapt well to the environment. Wall geckos are important and useful to humans,” Kazeh added.
While urging Nigerians to dismiss outrageous claims, and instead learn to read properly, know the source, and ask appropriate questions, the ornithologist outlined two fun facts which include:
Conservationist fun facts
1. Did you know that natural or human disturbances have resulted in more eggs being laid by the wall geckos?
Implication; the more we disturb them with our garlic and salt mixtures and try to kill them, the more they multiply
2. Did you know that female wall geckos can store sperm for up to a year? This is a trait that likely aids the species’ transportability and invasion success.
Verification has shown that wall geckos are not poisonous as contained in a viral WhatsApp message; instead, they play an important role in balancing the ecosystem. Even though the garlic and salt mixture can scare wall geckos, it will only increase its production.
The researcher produced this fact-check per the 2021 Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Fellowship partnership with JAY 101.9 FM Jos to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.