The voracious appetite for frog legs among the French and Belgians is pushing amphibian species in Indonesia, Turkey and Albania to the brink of extinction, a new report says.
Europe imports up to 200 million mostly wild frogs each year, contributing seriously to the depletion of native species abroad in the process.
Scientists estimate that the Anatolian water frog could become extinct in Turkey by 2032, due to over-exploitation while other species such as the Albanian water frog are now threatened.
Export quotas for the Indonesian Javan frog have also been withdrawn, in a move that conservationists suspect may be due to a depleted population.
Dr Sandra Atherer, co-founder of the conservation charity Pro Wildlife, who co-authored the report, said: “In Indonesia, as now also in Turkey and Albania, large frog species are dwindling in the wild, one by one, causing a domino effect. Killer to preserve the species.”
“If the looting continues in the European market, it is very likely that we will see an even more serious decline in wild frog numbers, and possibly possible extinctions in the next decade.”
Charlotte Nethert, president of the French NGO Robin des Bois, who co-authored the paper, added: “Frogs play a key role in the ecosystem as insect killers – and where frogs are disappearing, the use of toxic pesticides is increasing. Thus, the frog-legged trade has direct consequences not only On the frogs themselves, but on biodiversity and the health of the ecosystem as a whole.”
Amphibians are the most threatened group among vertebrates, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and European Union guidelines for habitats prevent native wild frogs from being caught in member countries.
However, the 27-nation bloc does not restrict imports, and every year about 4,070 tons of frogs caught abroad are served on European dishes.
Cravings for frogs are highest in Belgium, which accounts for 70% of amphibian imports, but Pro Wildlife says most of it is then sent to France, which imports 16.7% of European frogs directly. The Netherlands accounts for 6.4% of frog shipments.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature will publish a report on the state of amphibian conservation later this year, but Jennifer Ludtke, who manages the IUCN Red List assessments, said at least 1,200 amphibian species – 17% of the total – are now on the market. International.
“It is causing severe population declines in the countries from which these frogs originated, as well as the unintended spread of deadly pathogens to amphibians,” she told the Guardian.
There must be a shift in public consciousness in Europe [to realise] The burden of these declines in amphibian numbers, she said, falls on poorer countries because of the demand in richer nations.”
“We need to talk about sustainable use and if that is possible,” added Luedtke, who also coordinates the IUCN group that specializes in amphibians.
Indonesia supplies an estimated 74% of the frogs imported into the European Union, followed by Vietnam (21%), Turkey (4%) and Albania (0.7%), according to the new report.
Overexploitation in non-EU countries has led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to give weak and near threatened classifications to species such as the giant spiny toad in China, and the Asian grass frog in Cambodia.
In Africa, fewer than 250 mature Togo slippery frogs are believed to have survived, while the African giant toad may have already become extinct in Swaziland.
Pro Wildlife and Robin de Bois say they want to see EU provinces restrict imports, ensure frog leg products can be traced, provide better information to consumers and draw up proposals for a list of endangered frog species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
The ether also called for an end to cruel practices such as cutting the legs of frogs with axes or scissors without anesthesia.
EU insiders noted that it was unfortunate that the Pro Wildlife report was published after the June 17 deadline for submitting listing proposals to the next Cites Conference of Parties, which will take place in Panama in November.
A European Commission official said: “The European Union is ready to consider supporting any proposals coming from [Cites] range countries, for which there is scientific evidence demonstrating a risk that international trade threatens the survival of the species.”