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The Great Lizard Penis Fraud

Monitor lizard genitalia have been sold as Hatha Jodi, a tantric root thought to bring good luck.

Although illegal, researchers discovered Monitor lizard genitalia sold as “Hatha Jodi” available for purchase from major online retailers including Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy.
Although illegal, researchers discovered Monitor lizard genitalia sold as “Hatha Jodi” available for purchase from major online retailers including Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy. Neil D’Cruze/World Animal Protection

Hatha Jodi is a root that, if you use your imagination, can look like two people holding hands, perhaps in prayer. In part because of this appearance, in some tantric traditions it is believed to bring the bearer great luck. But the root is also very rare, only found in remote areas of Nepal and India.

Which brings us to lizard penises.

According to World Animal Protection, poachers have been selling the penises of monitor lizards in place of Hatha Jodi in a massive fraud that has led to numerous recent raids across India. In one bust, officials seized 210 dried lizard penises.

The penises had made their way onto online retailers as varied as Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, and Etsy, the organization said.

Scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in England confirmed that some of the Hatha Jodi they found online was in fact “derived” from monitor lizards. Other items were plastic moldings of lizard penises.

Monitor lizards are already targeted by poachers to meet consumer demand for their skin, meat, and body parts.
Monitor lizards are already targeted by poachers to meet consumer demand for their skin, meat, and body parts. Neil D’Cruze/World Animal Protection

The organization said that the (unwitting) penis donors frequently came to gruesome ends.

“Some will have their throats slit or their skulls smashed in before their genitals are removed for use as ‘Hatha Jodi’ and others will still be alive when this process begins,” the organization said in a statement.

How much could a fake Hatha Jodi fetch on the open market? More than £200, or around $250. Poaching the monitor lizards is illegal under Indian law, and authorities said they were trying to put an end to the problem.

“If left unchecked,” Aniruddha Mookerjee, the lead investigator in the case, said in a statement, “this demand could grow to the extent that it pushes some wild populations over the edge.”