croaked! Appetite for frog legs in France and Belgium leads to the extinction of the species

They can be considered a gourmet delicacy, but the demand for frog legs in France and Belgium is putting frog populations at risk, new study warns.

The EU imports about 4,070 tons of frog legs per year, equivalent to between 81 million and 200 million frogs, the vast majority of which are wild caught.

This increasingly threatens frog populations in source countries, including IndonesiaTurkey and Albania, according to German campaign group Pro Wildlife.

In Indonesia, Java frogs (Limnonectes macrodon), once widely traded, have now largely disappeared.

Meanwhile, scientists warn that Turkey’s edible frogs could be extinct by 2032 if wild capture continues.

And in Albania, the EU’s fourth largest supplier of frog legs, the scutari water frog (Pelophylax shqipericus) is now critically endangered.

Co-founder of Pro Wildlife Dr. Sandra Alterr described it as “a fatal domino effect for the protection of the species”.

They may be considered a gourmet delicacy, but the demand for frog legs in France and Belgium is putting frog populations at risk.

In Albania, the scutari water frog (Pelophylax shqipericus) is currently critically endangered.

In Albania, the scutari water frog (Pelophylax shqipericus) is currently critically endangered.

Belgium is technically the world's largest importer of frog legs, accounting for 70 percent of the EU market, followed by France (17 percent) and the Netherlands (7 percent).

Belgium is technically the world’s largest importer of frog legs, accounting for 70 percent of the EU market, followed by France (17 percent) and the Netherlands (7 percent).

The English ate frog legs 8,000 years before the French.

The British have long treated the French love of eating frog legs with a mixture of admiration and horror.

But it looks like they weren’t the first to enjoy the delicacy, as archaeologists have discovered fragments of a charred 8,000-year-old toad’s foot one mile from Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

The remains, which were found next to fish bones at the site, are the earliest evidence of toad or frog cooking in the world, according to scientists.

Archaeologists unearthed the leg, along with vertebrate small fish bones of trout or salmon, as well as charred bones of aurochs (precursors of cows) at the Blick Mead excavation near Amesbury in 2013.

Belgium is technically the world’s largest importer of frog legs, accounting for 70 percent of the EU market, followed by France (17 percent), the Netherlands (7 percent), Italy (4 percent) and Spain (2 percent). cents). cents).

However, Pro Wildlife’s Death Meal Report shows that most Belgian imports of frog legs have been re-exported to other EU member states.

France imported 30,015 tons of fresh, chilled or frozen frog legs between 2010 and 2019, corresponding to between 600 and 1.5 million frogs, according to French customs statistics.

Smaller volumes were also imported by the UK, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Germany.

About 74% of EU imports come from Indonesia, 4% from Turkey and 0.7% from Albania.

In the period 2010-2019, the EU imported over 30,000 tons of frog legs from Indonesia alone.

Big-legged species such as the crabeater frog (Fejervarya cancrivora) and the East Asian frog (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus) are in particular demand among gourmets.

“In the 1980s, India and Bangladesh originally supplied frog legs to Europe, but Indonesia has become the largest supplier since the 1990s,” the doctor said. Alterr.

“In Southeast Asian countries such as Turkey and Albania, species of large frogs are disappearing one by one.”

Pro Wildlife said that most frogs have their legs cut off with axes or scissors – without anesthesia.

The top half is then disposed of and the legs skinned and frozen for export.

Large-legged species such as the crab-eating frog (Fejervarya cancrivora) and the East Asian frog (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus) - pictured - are especially sought after by gourmets.

Large-legged species such as the crab-eating frog (Fejervarya cancrivora) and the East Asian frog (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus) – pictured – are especially sought after by gourmets.

Top suppliers by total weight (left) and share (right) of imports of frog legs to the EU for the period 2010-2019

Top suppliers by total weight (left) and share (right) of imports of frog legs to the EU for the period 2010-2019

France imported 30,015 tons of fresh, chilled or frozen frog legs between 2010 and 2019, corresponding to between 600 and 1.5 million frogs, according to French customs statistics.

France imported 30,015 tons of fresh, chilled or frozen frog legs between 2010 and 2019, corresponding to between 600 and 1.5 million frogs, according to French customs statistics.

Although the US also imports a large number of frogs for consumption, they are mostly frogs bred specifically for trade, while the EU mainly imports wild-caught frogs.

Charlotte Nitard, president of France’s Robin des Bois, said the frog leg trade has direct implications not only for the frogs themselves, but also for conservation.

“Frogs play a central role in the ecosystem as insect killers, and where frogs are disappearing, the use of toxic pesticides is increasing,” she said.

Robin de Bois and Pro Wildlife are calling on the EU to end the overexploitation of frog stocks for the local deli market.

They also call for restrictions on international trade through the CITES Convention for the Protection of Species.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), amphibians are the most endangered vertebrate group.

The EU Habitat Directive prohibits the capture of native wild frogs in member countries, but the bloc does not restrict imports.

The IUCN claims that at least 1,200 amphibian species are traded on the international market – 17 percent of the total.

ARE AMPHIBIANS AT RISK OF EXTINCTION?

More than 40 percent of amphibian species, more than a third of marine mammals and almost a third of sharks and fish are endangered.

An analysis of the risks facing some 8,000 known amphibian species by the UN and published in an IPBES report found that up to 50 percent could be endangered, dramatically higher than earlier estimates.

The surge is due to the inclusion of approximately 2,200 species that were previously underrepresented due to lack of data; now, based on new models, the researchers say at least 1,000 more species are threatened with extinction.

The researchers used a method called feature-based spatial-phylogenetic statistical framework to estimate the extinction risks of species for which there is a lack of data.

This combined data on their ecology, geography and evolutionary characteristics with the respective extinction risks of each factor to make a prediction.

The team notes that only about 44 percent of amphibians currently have up-to-date risk assessments.

“We found that over 1,000 data-deficient amphibians are endangered and almost 500 are endangered or critically endangered, mostly in South America and Southeast Asia,” said Pamela González del Pliego of Sheffield and Yale Universities.

“Urgent conservation measures are needed to prevent the extinction of these species.”

The species most at risk are likely also those we know least about, the researchers say, making it even more difficult to protect them.

A study published earlier this year found that 90 amphibian species have been wiped out due to a deadly fungal disease.

It infects frogs, toads and salamanders and has caused a sharp decline in the populations of over 400 species over the past 50 years.

The disease is called chytridiomycosis, which eats away at the skin of amphibians and threatens the extinction of more animals.

Native to Asia, it is present in over 60 countries, with the most affected parts of the world being tropical Australia, Central America, and South America.