The global trade in frogs’ legs for human consumption is threatening their extinction, according to an international team’s new study.
Researchers say the global pattern of harvesting frogs and the decline in wild populations are following a familiar path: overexploitation of the seas and the consequent chain reaction of global fishery collapses. They’ve called for mandatory certification of frog harvests to improve monitoring and help develop sustainable harvest strategies.
While frogs’ legs may never have crossed your dinner plate, they’re not just a French delicacy, says Corey Bradshaw, PhD, an associate professor of ecology and environmental biology at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“Frogs’ legs are on the menu at school cafeterias in Europe, market stalls and dinner tables across Asia, to high-end restaurants throughout the world,” he says. “Amphibians are already the most threatened animal group yet assessed because of disease, habitat loss and climate change,” he adds. “Man’s massive appetite for their legs is not helping.”
The annual global trade in frogs for human consumption has increased over the last 20 years, with at least 200 million—and maybe more than 1 billion—frogs consumed every year. Indonesia is, by far, the largest frog exporter.
“The frogs’ legs’ global market has shifted from seasonal harvest for local consumption to year-round international trade,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “But harvesting seems to be following the same pattern for frogs as with marine fisheries: initial local collapses in Europe and North America, followed by population declines in India and Bangladesh, and now potentially in Indonesia. Absence of essential data to monitor and manage the wild harvest is a large concern.”
The study team also includes researchers from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, the National University of Singapore and Harvard University. The research paper will be published in an upcoming issue of Conservation Biology.
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