Saturday, May 02, 2009

Why Save A Frog?

A few reasons and some important information for those that think frogs are not threatened and not on the decline..

Last week we celebrated the international 'Save the Frog' day. In the south of Goa, volunteers from the Goacan network stood in the city centre with sandwich boards and passed on useful info-slips, educating passing citizens that frogs needed to be protected and that it was against the law to eat frog meat. In the north of Goa, Nirmal Kulkarni, Roopa Bandekar and Rajiv D'Silva organized an evening that focused on frogs. The event had a photo exhibition of frogs of Goa, messages from students taking part in the campaign, an informative presentation and finally a Frog Quiz that everybody took part in. All of this marked the beginning of a volunteer driven campaign that will continue through May and June this year.

Now while we rave and rant about the need for people to stop eating frogs, and that they ought to be protected, there are quite a lot of people out there that are still not convinced. In the last few days, I've been occasionally asked these familiar questions... "There's so many issues in Goa, and you want to add frogs to that too?" asked a passerby in Margao. "On what basis do you say that frogs are declining, if you have no hard data?" asked an editor recently. '(Eating) Frog-legs is part of 'Goan Culture', so why stop it? Asked a school friend. Why can't I eat frog legs, if I get it from farmed sources? Asked my friend's father. Humans have so many problems, is the life of a frog more important than a human?

While it might be interesting to get such queries, answers to all these questions is very important in clearing out misconceptions and false truths that spread faster than proper awareness.

Amphibians are canaries in the coal mine
Protecting frogs is directly liked to Climate Change. In 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) completely assessed amphibians of the world under the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA) initiative. The result was alarming: one in three amphibians face extinction. Amphibians being very sensitive are the first to get affected from impacts like climate change, and thus, like canaries in the coal mine, frog populations can warn us of disasters much before they could possibly occur. The Indian Bull Frog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) and the Jerdon's Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus) which are both found in Goa and hunted for frog meat are even listed on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species in the world that was compiled in 2008.

Biodiversity Assessments and Indicators Are Enough
Frogs in Goa are still very much on the decline. While hard data on frog populations in Goa does not exist, (but should) bio-indicators in Goa indicate the declining trend. Worldwide, as it is not possible to evaluate all known species, organizations like the Species Survival Commission (SSC) works with worldwide partners to cover key taxonomic groups. This collaborative effort between organizations provides an effective method for gathering and disseminating the most accurate scientific data available for biodiversity conservation. While hard data on frog numbers in the wild will aid in its protection, compiling the same will be painstaking, and take a few years to see any significant trends. While that is the need of the hour, we cannot wait helplessly and claim that all is well in the wild world.

Frogs help the control of vector-borne diseases
While frogs can sometimes eat spiders, crayfish and other invertebrates, the bulk of their diet is insects. Reduction in frog population can cause an increase in the spread of malaria, encephalitis and other diseases which are carried by insects. Taking frogs from the wild could have devastating consequences. Frogs are insectivorous and each one can eat more than its weight (about 200 grams) in waterborne pests every day. These pests destroy crops and carry diseases. In some areas of India, the spread of a plant disease known locally as "wereng" has been attributed to increased hunting of frogs. Fewer than 50 frogs are needed to keep an acre of a rice paddy field free of insects: they play a vital role in eradicating insect pests; they prevent illnesses, and are a natural biological agent. Insect pests increase precipitously where frogs are vanishing.

Frogs can reduce human-snake conflicts
Frog in the wild serves as food for snakes. These snakes in turn eat rats which live in the rice paddies. However, when frog populations decline in the wild, snakes turn to other areas for food, which are usually human habitations where rats thrive. This results in human conflicts with snakes. Most snake rescuers in Goa will confirm that the instances of human-snake conflicts in Goa are on the rise in the past few years.

Frog Farming does not exist in Goa or India
While a few people might claim that their last plate of frog legs was sourced from a frog farm, that's simply untrue. Frog farms can simply not exist in India unless there is a change of legislation. Frogs, being part of wildlife are property of the Government of India, and therefore anybody claiming to farm them is violating laws as he has Government property in captivity, even if it might be for a good cause. It's unlikely that India would permit frog farming, as frog farms worldwide have been responsible for being the source of disease and viral infections that soon spread to frog populations in the wild with devastating consequences.

Clinton works with environmental and wildlife issues in Goa. If you want to help in the save the frog campaign, do contact Clinton Vaz at or +91 9890936828. You can report instance of frog catching or hotels serving frog meat to the Forest Department. Speak to Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mr. Devendra Dalai at 9423889890


Diniz said...

wonderful, relevant blog Clint. Wish more folks would be as aggressively passionate about the environment as you. By the way, would like to discuss something with you. Do pass on your mail id, and I will zip you a mail. cheerio, Merril

Pratik Mandrekar said...

Interesting piece of information!

OIPA – India Representative said...