Are Humans Now Eating Frogs to Extinction?


Paul Zahl/NGS

Add frogs to the list of animals we may be eating out of existence.

At least 200 million and maybe more than a billion frogs are being consumed by humans each year, researchers said this week.

“Frogs legs are on the menu at school cafeterias in Europe, market stalls and dinner tables across Asia, to high end restaurants throughout the world,” said Corey Bradshaw, an ecologist from the University of Adelaide School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.


The global trade in frog legs for human consumption is threatening their extinction, Bradshaw said in a statement released by the university. “Amphibians are already the most threatened animal group yet assessed because of disease, habitat loss and climate change — man’s massive appetite for their legs is not helping.”

Bradshaw, who is also employed as a senior scientist by the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and colleagues are writing a paper that will be published online in the journal Conservation Biology.

The researchers say the global pattern of harvesting and decline of wild populations of frogs appears to be following the same path set by overexploitation of the seas and subsequent “chain reaction” of fisheries collapses around the world.

They called for mandatory certification of frog harvests to improve monitoring and help the development of sustainable harvest strategies.

“The frogs’ legs global market has shifted from seasonal harvest for local consumption to year-round international trade,” Bradshaw said. “But harvesting seems to be following the same pattern for frogs as with marine fisheries — initial local collapses in Europe and North America followed by population declines in India and Bangladesh and now potentially in Indonesia.

“Absence of essential data to monitor and manage the wild harvest is a large concern.”

NGS photos above are by Bianca Lavies (top and bottom) and Paul Zahl (center)

Indonesia is the largest exporter of frogs by far and its domestic market is 2-7 times that, Bradshaw said.

Others in the study team included researchers from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, the National University of Singapore, and Harvard University.

News stories about this research:

A billion frogs on world’s plates (BBC News)

In pictures: The over-harvesting of amphibians (BBC News)

Surprisingly, too many frogs are being eaten (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Frogs under threat as diners hop into legs (The Australian)

Frogs are ‘on their last legs’ (The Sun, UK)

Related National Geographic News stories:

Frog Extinctions Linked to Global Warming

Photo Gallery: Frog Survival Linked to Eco-Health

“Frog Hotel” to Shelter Panama Species From Lethal Fungus

NatGeo News Watch blog entries about frogs:

Four out of Ten Amphibians in Decline, New Study Finds

Frog With Green Blood, Turquoise Bones Found in Cambodia

Warming is Killing Yellowstone’s Amphibians, Researchers Find

Tree Frog Once Thought Lost Is Found

Researcher Licks Poison Frogs in Pursuit of Science (with video)

National Geographic Magazine:

Your Shot Frogs

The Fragile World of Frogsfrog-illustration.jpg

Illustration courtesy FWS

Changing Planet

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