Appetite For Frogs' Legs Harming Wild Populations
Appetite for frogs' legs is depleting wild populations.
Jan. 20, 2009— -- Are frogs being eaten to extinction? We're used to hearing about how disease, climate change, and habitat degradation are endangering amphibians, but conservationists are warning that frogs could be going the same way as the cod. Gastronomic demand, they report, is depleting regional populations to the point of no return.
David Bickford of the National University of Singapore and colleagues have called for more regulation and monitoring in the global frog meat market in order to avoid species being "eaten to extinction".
Statistics on imports and exports of frog legs are sparse as few countries keep track of the amount of meat harvested and consumed domestically.
According to UN figures, global trade has increased in the past 20 years. France - not surprisingly - and the US are the two largest importers; with France importing between 2500 and 4000 tonnes of frog meat each year since 1995.
But although frog legs are often thought of in the West as a quintessentially French dish, they are also very popular in Asia.
Bickford estimates that between 180 million to over a billion frogs are harvested each year. "That is based on both sound data and an estimate of local consumption for just Indonesia and China," he says. "The actual number I suspect is quite a bit larger and my 180 million bare minimum is almost laughably conservative."
Even top French chefs may be unaware of where their frogs are coming from. Bruno Stril, teaching chef at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, France, is unsure where his suppliers source their frog legs. "I would like for them to come from France," he says. But he expects that most of the meat comes from other countries.
Stril is on the right track. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of frog meat, exporting more than 5000 tonnes of frog meat each year, mostly to France, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Bickford and colleagues say European kitchens initially found their own supplies in the surrounding countryside, but the fact that they are now importing from Asia suggests local populations were over-harvested. This, they say, could be a sign that frog populations, like many fish populations, will be harvested to near extinction.