According to a report, a voracious appetite for frog legs among French and Belgians is pushing species in Indonesia, Turkey and Albania to the brink of extinction.
Europe imports as many as 200 million mostly wild frogs each year, contributing to a serious depletion of native species abroad.
Scientists estimate that the Anatolian pool frog could be extinct in Turkey by 2032 due to over-exploitation, while other species such as the Albanian pool frog are now under threat.
Export quotas for the Indonesian Javan frog have also been revoked in a move conservationists suspect is the result of population depletion.
dr. Sandra Altherr, co-founder of the charity Pro Wildlife, which co-authored the report, said: “In Indonesia, as it is now in Turkey and Albania, large frog species in the wild are declining one after another, causing a fatal domino effect for species conservation.”
“If the looting for the European market continues, it is very likely that we will see a more severe decline in the wild frog population and possibly extinctions in the next decade.”
Charlotte Nithart, the president of the French NGO Robin des Bois, who co-wrote the paper, said: “Frogs play a central role in the ecosystem as insect killers – and where frogs disappear, the use of toxic pesticides increases. The frog leg trade thus has direct consequences, not only for the frogs themselves, but for biodiversity and the health of ecosystems as a whole.”
Amphibians are the most endangered group among vertebrates, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the EU’s Habitats Directive prevents native wild frogs from being captured in member states.
The bloc of 27 countries does not restrict imports and every year, however, about 4,070 tons of frogs from abroad are served on European plates.
The craving for frog meat seems to be greatest in Belgium, which accounts for 70% of imports, but Pro Wildlife says most of it then goes to France, which imports 16.7% directly. The Netherlands occupies 6.4%.
The IUCN will publish a report on amphibian conservation status later this year, but Jennifer Luedtke, who manages the union’s red list assessments, said at least 1,200 amphibian species — 17% of the total — are in the international market. are traded.
“It is causing a drastic population decline in the countries where these frogs originate, as well as the inadvertent spread of deadly pathogens to amphibians,” she said.
“There needs to be a shift in public consciousness in Europe [to realise] that the burden of this decline in amphibian populations is being placed on poorer countries because of demand in richer ones.”
Luedtke, who also coordinates the IUCN’s amphibian group, said: “We need to talk about sustainable use and whether that’s possible at all.”
Indonesia supplies an estimated 74% of frogs imported into the EU, followed by Vietnam at 21%, Turkey at 4% and Albania at 0.7%, the report said.
Over-exploitation in non-EU countries has led the IUCN to give vulnerable and near-threatened classifications to species such as the giant spiny frog in China and the Asian grass frog in Cambodia.
Fewer than 250 adult slippery Togo frogs are said to survive in Africa, and the giant African bullfrog may already be extinct in Swaziland.
Pro Wildlife and Robin de Bois say they want EU countries to limit imports, ensure traceability of frog leg products, provide better information to consumers and develop proposals for the endangered species list in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
Altherr also called for an end to cruel practices such as cutting frogs’ legs with axes or scissors without anesthetic.
EU insiders suggested it was unfortunate that the Pro Wildlife report was published after a June 17 deadline for proposals for a list of the parties’ next CITES conference, which will take place in Panama in November.
A European Commission official said: “The EU is ready to consider support for proposals for a list emanating from [Cites] distribution states, for which there is scientific evidence showing there is a risk that international trade threatens the survival of the species.”