Domino effect. EU blamed for mass extinction of frogs around the world

The researchers warn that greed for this delicacy threatens the existence of amphibians.

Between 2010 and 2019, a whopping 40,000 tons of frog legs were imported into the European Union, taken from some two billion amphibians. Statistics show that Belgium is the largest importer of the delicacy, while France is rightfully considered the main consumer of toad legs, writes Express .

Everything would be fine, but according to biologists, such a craving for a culinary delicacy is a real problem for the toads themselves around the world. The researchers believe that the obsession with frog legs eventually set off a “domino effect of extinction” – as a result, populations in the largest importing countries, including Indonesia, Albania and Turkey, suffer massively.

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Larger species such as the crab-eating common frog, giant java frog and East Asian bullfrog are known to be particularly sought after by gourmets across Europe, biologist Dr. Sandra Alterr of the German charity Pro Wildlife, author of the article, said.

At the same time, it is important to understand that frogs play an important role in ecosystems as they prey on insects. Researchers have found that in areas where entire populations of frogs are disappearing, the use of toxic pesticides is increasing. Moreover, scientists believe that the impact of the frog leg trade has long gone beyond the target frog species and is now affecting broad biodiversity and the health of the ecosystem as a whole.

For example, in the 1970s and 80s, India and Bangladesh were the main suppliers of frog legs to Europe, but over time, both countries banned the export of delicacies – the reason was the fact that frog populations in both countries were greatly reduced. As a result of this decision, Indonesia became the main importer of the delicacy. And over time, she faced the same problem – now there is a sharp decline in the populations of big-footed frogs. The researchers call this effect the “fatal domino effect for species conservation.”

It should be noted that the decrease in the populations of big-footed frogs is also observed in Albania and Turkey, which are also among the largest importers of the delicacy in the world.

The scientists note that commercial frog farms, like those in Vietnam, may seem like a good alternative. However, their existence also comes with risks. The fact is that such farms still require replenishment of stocks of wild species. That being said, the researchers warn that breeding non-native species also comes with some risks, such as:

  • the spread of disease;
  • “genetic contamination”;
  • hybridization among local frog populations.

Mark Aulia, a herpetologist at the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change, said the international trade in frog legs is essentially a black box, according to the study’s lead author. Firstly, there is no single database of trade across species, secondly, there is large-scale mislabeling, and thirdly, frog species are often misidentified.

The scientists also note that during the study they were not able to find open data on the control of pesticide residues and other potentially hazardous substances in processed frogs or frog legs, which is shocking in itself.

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