Fried or dried, frogs are popular food in African markets

The demand for frogs for human consumption is rising dramatically in parts of West Africa, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the TRAFFIC Bulletin.


African tiger frogs caught with a basket trap in shallow parts of the River Niger, northern Benin. The small fish are used as bait.

Photo © Meike Mohneke/via TRAFFIC

“Dried or fried: amphibians in local and regional food market in West Africa” describes the frog trade in Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria, based on interviews with local fishermen, collectors, market traders and others involved in the trade, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, said today.

Related blog post: Are Humans Eating Frogs to Extinction?

TRAFFIC is a partnership of the conservation organizations WWF and IUCN. TRAFFIC Bulletin is a peer-reviewed scientific journal dedicated to the wildlife trade.


Frog market in Lolo, northern Nigeria. Traders at the frog market in Lolo receive their frogs mainly from Benin and Niger. On average, five to ten sacks of frogs per trader were traded on one market-day–five traders traded between 36 and 39 sacks per week. From Lolo, the frogs are transported to the south of the country.

Photo © Abiodun Onadeko/via TRAFFIC

“In Burkina Faso, almost all frogs collected were consumed locally, with the African Tiger Frog Hoplobatrachus occipitalis the most frequently eaten species,” TRAFFIC said on its website.

“Frogs are usually sold to market traders who fry the specimens before sale. Villagers in the Ganzourgou region also eat toads, which are first skinned, beheaded, washed then dried to avoid the toxic skin secretions,” TRAFFIC added.


Piles of frogs, principally Hoplobatrachus occipitalis, drying in the sun, Malanville, Benin, June 2009. At least 18 piles of frogs—collected by 30 Nigerian frog collectors—were observed by the study authors on one visit.

Photo © Mareike Hirschfeld/via TRAFFIC


Map of the study sites in Burkina Faso and amphibian trading spots in Nigeria. Each black dot refers to a village or town where interviews have been carried out. Malanville in Benin was included as a major trading spot for frogs going into the Nigerian food market.

Map courtesy of TRAFFIC

Highlights of the investigation:

  • In Benin and Nigeria, frogs are transported to south-west of Nigeria for sale. Thirtyt-two traders between them handled around 2.7 million frogs per year, most originating from the northern savannah regions of Nigeria and from neighbouring Benin, Chad and Niger.
  • In Malanville, Benin, frogs are collected exclusively for the Nigerian market. There, many fishermen have recently switched to catching frogs, not because of higher profits, but because frogs can be sold in batches, providing a lump sum of income–around U.S.$20 per sack. Increasing numbers of collectors from Nigeria are visiting the area to collect frogs. The authors accompanied a 30-strong team who between them caught around 450,000 (450 sackfuls) of frogs during a two-month stay in Malanville.
  • In Burkina Faso, frogs were often caught by hand or with nets, but in Benin, special frog traps are installed or torches are used to detect frogs at night from their eyeshine, before they are beaten on the head with a wooden stick.


African tiger frogs being dried for subsequent sale, southern Burkina Faso, January 2008.

Photo © Meike Mohneke/via TRAFFIC

“There are indications the trade in frogs is unsustainable in some regions,” TRAFFIC said. “In Burkina Faso, local people reported decreasing catches of frogs, although whether this is due to over-exploitation, habitat deterioration or other factors is unclear. There were similar reports from western Cameroon and eastern Nigeria, where even tadpoles are collected for food.”

While frogs are clearly an important food source in the region, currently there are no regulations in any West African country governing the harvest, TRAFFIC added.


Woman selling dried toads at a market in a village in the province of Ganzourgou, Burkina Faso.

Photo © Meike Mohneke/via TRAFFIC

“Frogs are important in biological control too: in India, where the processing and export of frogs was banned because of a rise in agricultural pests and mosquito numbers, frog populations have largely recovered to former levels and the import of insecticides has dropped by 40 percent.”

The authors suggest farming of large species, like the African Tiger Frog in West Africa, should be investigated–to protect wild populations and provide a source of local income. However, they caution about the potential drawbacks, such as loss of income to villagers not involved in farming, land use and pollution from farms and the potential disease and health risks.

“Dried or fried: amphibians in local and regional food market in West Africa” is authored by M. Mohneke, A.B. Onadeko, M. Hirschfeld and Mark-Oliver Rödel. It can be downloaded as part of the latest TRAFFIC Bulletin (PDF, 2.6 MB).


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