Frog Leg Trade Decimates Species and Causes Ecological Chaos
New report highlights dangers of international frog leg trade
WASHINGTON, D.C./MUNICH (July 26, 2011) – International wildlife conservation groups Pro Wildlife, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Welfare Institute, issued a report today titled Canapés to Extinction: The international trade in frogs’ legs and its ecological impact. The report is the first comprehensive study of the frog leg market ever conducted and reveals an industry that is systematically devastating frog populations throughout the world and, subsequently, causing severe environmental impacts to natural ecosystems.
“Humans have been eating frogs for ages. But today the practice is not sustainable on a global scale,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, acting director of international conservation programs for Defenders of Wildlife. “Billions of frogs are traded internationally each year for human consumption, and that industry is responsible for depleting wild populations, spreading deadly disease, and allowing invasive species to destroy the health of native ecosystems.”
In recent years, the United States has imported an average of 2,280 tonnes (4.6 million pounds) of frog legs each year—the equivalent of 456 million to 1.1 billion frogs—and another 2,216 tonnes (4.4 million pounds) of live frogs for Asian-American markets. Most frog and frog leg imports to the U.S. come from China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Mexico and Indonesia.
During the last decade, the European Union imported an average of 4,600 tonnes (9.2 million pounds) of frog legs each year—the equivalent of 1 to 2.3 billion frogs. Indonesia is the world’s leading supplier, providing 84 percent of total imports to the EU with the vast majority of frogs being caught in the wild. Belgium, France and the Netherlands are the top importers in the EU.
“The decline of many frog species is a global problem that is being greatly accelerated by just a handful of European nations,” said Sandra Altherr, director of wildlife programs for Pro Wildlife in Germany. “The capture and killing of native frogs is prohibited within the EU, so it is incomprehensible that we would be supporting environmentally disastrous practices abroad.”
Until the mid-1980s, India and Bangladesh dominated the international frog leg export market. Severe exploitation resulted in the collapse of many wild frog populations in those countries, including two of the most sought-after species, the green pond frog and the Indian bullfrog. In turn, the decline of those species resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of pesticides, due to an explosion of insects and other agricultural pests previously kept in check by frogs. In 1985, the two frog species were protected with an Appendix II listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). India and Bangladesh subsequently banned exports, their native species have since recovered and the use of pesticides has been reduced.
However, in recent years, other countries have stepped in to fill the void and their frog populations appear to be headed for a similar fate. Indonesia, where billions of frogs are taken from the wild annually, and to a lesser extent China, Taiwan and Vietnam, where frogs are farmed very intensively, have now taken over the export market.
“We must take immediate action to protect frog species from being exploited for international trade,” said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Wild populations across Asia are already in trouble, and unregulated trade puts native species in the U.S. at even greater risk from deadly diseases that have been wreaking havoc on amphibians worldwide. It will take a coordinated effort from governments and the world’s conservation community to prevent the extinction of imperiled frog species and to protect our native species from harmful invasives.”
The report will be distributed to key government decision-makers, including those responsible for the implementation of CITES, with a request that they take immediate action to bring this unregulated trade under control. Considering that the frog species dominating the frog leg trade are not currently protected under CITES, there is an urgent need for governments to secure CITES protections for them.