Goodbye snake oil, hello lizard penis.
If you’ve bought a mythical Indian plant root recently, we’ve got bad news for you. Investigators and scientists from the London-based wildlife advocacy group World Animal Protection released a statement this week declaring that they have discovered hundreds of dessicated monitor lizard penises that scammers are passing off as prized tantric plant roots known as Hatha Jodi.
Hatha Jodi is found only in remote parts of Nepal and Central India. Because it is rare and supposedly very powerful, one root can retail for hundreds of dollars on Amazon, Etsy, and other major online retailers. Known for its distinctive shape that looks like two human hands clasped in prayer, the root reputedly offers mystical benefits to those who possess it, and is used in rituals to promote luck, happiness, and wealth.
But unwitting customers may in fact be praying to a less holy object. It appears that the anatomical features of the lizard's hemipenis, which features a bifurcation into a pair of sexual organs, resembles the two branches of Hatha Jodi — enabling one of the most peculiar frauds in the illicit animal trade.
“We were shocked at the sheer audacity and scale of this illegal wildlife trade,” Dr. Neil D’Cruze of the World Animal Protection remarked in the statement. “Deceitful dealers claiming to sell holy plant root labelled as ‘Hatha Jodi’ are in fact peddling dried lizard penis to their unwitting customers.”
The investigators also found that some supposed roots were just moldings made from the lizard’s penises. (Why not moldings made from the root itself? We may never know.)
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In case you were wondering, the monitor lizards don’t survive the penis harvesting, according to the researchers. They are being illegally poached in contravention of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, trapped and killed gruesomely before their penises are removed. The very unlucky ones are left alive for the removal process — though they don’t stay living for long.
These lizards don’t exactly have a lot of penis to spare. All monitor lizards are a protected species in India, where killing and selling any part of the reptile is against the law. The yellow monitor and Bengal monitor species are also both listed under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).
“If left unchecked,” wrote lead investigator Aniruddha Mookerjee in the press release, the demand for Hatha Jodi “could grow to the extent that it pushes some wild populations over the edge.”
So please source your ritualistic roots responsibly. Otherwise, neither you, nor the lizard, will get lucky.
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