The worldwide trade in frog legs is massive, and is undoubtedly a significant contributor to the decline and extinction of amphibian populations worldwide. For example, Europeans alone consumed roughly 120 million frogs per year in the 1990's. The Californian gold-miners nearly ate the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) to extinction in the 19th century, and the species has never fully recovered. The frog legs trade is problematic whether the frogs are wild-caught or farm-raised. Specifically, the harvest of wild frogs leads to depletion of wild populations, and trade in farm-raised frogs leads to the spread of harmful infectious diseases and invasive species.
The trade in wild-caught frogs has been driving frog populations to near extinction since the 19th century, when the Californian gold miners decimated populations of California Red-Legged Frogs (Rana draytonii) in the 1800's. The harvesting of amphibians for the food trade is often unregulated, and in many developing countries (like Indonesia and Thailand) is likely a primary contributor to amphibian declines. India actually banned the export of frog legs in the 1980's because mosquito populations were increasing as the frog populations declined. The French ate so many of their native frogs that the government had to ban the eating of native frogs, and now France relies on imports from Indonesia and other distant countries. The Goliath Frog (Conraua goliath), the world's largest frog, is being hunted to near extinction in western Africa.
Frog art by Aisyah Nasywa Ula, Age 7, Indonesia
-- Eating Frogs to Extinction by Warkentin et al. (2009).
-- Challenges in Evaluating the Impact of the Trade in Amphibians and Reptiles on Wild Populations by Schlaepfer et al. (2005).
-- Fijian Frog Species Eaten To Extinction - Fiji Times
-- Canapes To Extinction - Defenders of Wildlife (2011)
-- Impact of international frog' legs trade on biodiversity (2012: Open letter to all Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES))
-- Bullfrogs in US Markets (Schloegel et al. 2009)
-- Frog Legs Trade and Pathogens (Gratwicke et al. 2009)
-- Chytridiomycosis and Lessons Learned (Kriger & Hero 2009)
-- Infected bullfrogs in Uruguay (Mazzoni et al. 2003)
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in the live frog trade of Telmatobius (Anura: Ceratophryidae) in the tropical Andes (Catenazzi et al. 2010) -- American University's Trade Environment Database Case Study
Even in the most developed countries, there are virtually no protocols in place to ensure that diseased amphibians do not get imported or exported. American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) are commonly farmed and transported worldwide. They are known carriers of the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and thus are likely to be primary contributors to the global spread of chytridiomycosis, a disease that has decimated amphibian populations worldwide. In a recent study, 62% of the captive-raised bullfrogs sampled in shops in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco were infected with the chytrid fungus. These three cities alone have been importing over five million amphibians per year.
Frog art by Lim Shaun Pen, Age 9, Malaysia
American Bullfrogs are the frog species most commonly farmed worldwide. They are also quite adept at establishing populations in areas to which they have been introduced, and they have become invasive species in at least 15 countries worldwide. Bullfrogs compete with and eat native amphibians. Actually, bullfrogs eat all types of native wildlife: frogs, bats, snakes and more. If you eat frog legs in an American or European restaurant, there is a high chance it is this fungus-prone invasive species, which is native to the eastern United States.
"I found Egyptian, Armenian, Indonesian, Vietnamese and of course Chinese companies offering wholesale imports."
Frogs are eaten in many countries, by people of extremely different cultural backgrounds.
The photo below (courtesy of Alejandro Rosselli) is from a street market in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Indonesians are responsible for 45% of the world's frog legs exports, and the domestic frog legs trade is thought to be at least as large. Most of Indonesia's frogs are wild-caught.
Here's a video of the Amphibian Avenger Lucy Cooke investigating frog frappes in downtown Lima, Peru:
Our very own President Barack Obama munching into a frog's leg while on the campaign trail, likely oblivious to the ecological damage being done:
Obama photo by S. Loeb AFP/Getty Images.
Queen Latifah was eating and promoting fried frog legs on her show. Please send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org asking her to educate people about ways to protect amphibians rather than ways to drive them closer to extinction.
In 1910 Detroit produced, shipped, and consumed six million pairs of legs according to Bill Loomis. Detroit hotels served nearly 10,000 legs per day.
In India, the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) is known as the Jumping Chicken, and is systematically hunted during the monsoon season -- even though it is illegal. Learn more here.
Frog art by Banani Adhikari, Age 12, India
The citizens of Fellsmere, FL have a frog-eating festival each year intended to fulfill the "recreational needs of the children in Fellsmere". If you would like to help SAVE THE FROGS! fulfill the educational needs of the adults of Fellsmere, please contact us. We need people on the ground at the festival to distribute literature and educate the festival attendees and promoters. The festival is responsible for the death of 80,000 frogs each year. In 2012 the festival sold all 4,000 pounds of frog legs they had in stock. In 2013, they are reported to have sold 5,000 pounds, sourced from Louisiana and Asia, "so as to not decimate local sources". It sounds like they should be a bit more considerate of frogs from other part of the world, rather than blind to their actions and dependent on the exploitation of globally-sourced wildlife.
The C-ville Weekly newspaper in Charlottesville, VA published an article promoting the eating of frog legs but failed to mention the ecological damage caused by the frog legs trade, so SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger sent them this note, which they published in the Letters to the Editor section in May 2015:
"To the Editor of C-Ville Weekly:
Most Charlottesville residents are interested in protecting the environment. Unfortunately, the May 13th C-Ville Weekly article "Kickin It" by Shea Gibbs promoted the eating of frog legs but did not mention the ecological damage caused by the frog legs trade. Amphibians are the most rapidly disappearing group of vertebrates on the planet, with 2,000+ species on the brink of extinction. Over one billion frogs are removed from the wild each year for the frog legs trade, and several hundred million others are raised on farms. The frogs described in Mr. Gibbs' article are likely American Bullfrogs that are farm-raised in China. These farm-raised bullfrogs regularly escape their frog farms and cause major problems for native wildlife. The bullfrogs have very large mouths and are voracious predators of native frogs. They also spread chytridiomycosis, a skin disease that has decimated frog populations worldwide. Charlottesville residents should be aware that if they choose to eat frog legs, they will be contributing to the continued extinction of frog species. Please choose other foods to eat and see www.savethefrogs.com/frog-legs for more information.
Kerry Kriger, Ph.D.
SAVE THE FROGS! Founder & Executive Director
University of Virginia, Class of 1996"
The Daytona News-Journal printed an account of a casual meal at an Old Florida style restaurant. Everything about it sounded appealing: the sunset, the water, the atmosphere, until the part where diners were munching on frogs' legs. Thanks to SAVE THE FROGS! Supporter Sandra Walters for getting this letter of hers published in the January 12, 2014 edition of the Daytona News-Journal and helping raise awareness of the relationship between frog legs and frog extinctions!
STOP! DON'T FRY THAT FROG
by Sandra Walters
"Frogs? Those little green things that eat disease-carrying mosquitoes and water-scumming algae? Whose croaky voices join on warm summer nights in a sort of Froggy Tabernacle Choir? Whose skin secretions have been proven to combat some viruses, and who themselves are part of the web of life, serving as food for predators like birds and fish? Kids love them, right? Think Kermit. What's not to like about these tough little guys who have survived for 250 million years, and serve as warning signals when our aquatic environment goes haywire from pollution or disease?
Maybe the diners and restaurant owners simply did not know that today, one-third of all amphibian species are on the verge of extinction. In fact, about 200 frog species worldwide have disappeared since 1980. Does that leg taste as good when you realize that eating it is helping frogs exit the planet forever?
A worldwide organization called Save the Frogs is doing all it can to call attention to frogs' plight and stop their slide into oblivion from pollution, disease, habitat loss and over-harvesting. Not everything about "Old Florida" is worthwhile. Diners, please switch entrees. We need frogs, and frogs need their legs more than we do."
A note from Biologist Vic Eichler:
"Thank you Sandra Walters for the clear letter appealing to diners in support of not dining on the legs of frogs! There are several restaurants in my home town that regularly serve frog legs and have at times taken them off their menu. However, the restaurant managers tell me that they return to serving 'frog legs' because of patron demand. I like the tact of your letter - appealing to the customers to change their ways! You've encouraged our local Save The Frogs! group to try the same approach as you did. I hope your letter got the response that you hoped for!"
The West Africans like to eat frogs as well. The picture below is from a market in Kopie. "Whereas particular West African tribes have always used frogs as food, medicine or for cultural reasons, a current increase in frog hunting seems to be new. In West Africa the frog trade was mainly restricted to local or national scale. However, there is now an intense cross-border trade of frogs from Benin to Nigeria. This potentially unsustainable harvest apparently has dramatically increased during the past decade. The current frog trade may be taken as an indication that other protein sources (e.g. fish, mammals) used in the past have decreased. As savanna frogs are key-species for the functioning of temporary savanna waters, their decrease or even local extinction are likely to have unforeseen and negative ecological consequences, including effects on human welfare and health."
-- Photo and text courtesy of Meike Mohneke.
The SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana UDS Chapter at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana is working to end the over consumption of frogs in Ghana. Here is a November 9th, 2013 update from the chapter:
"Today we visited the frog market at Kumbugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. We met the frog hunters who took us through what they do. They are basically farmers but hunt for frogs during the lean season of farming when they do not have much work on their farms. We were taken through the processing of the frogs before selling: the frogs are either smoked or fried and sent to the market for sale. The frogs are harvested from ponds and dams around the village. We were also taken to the harvesting site where we saw how they catch the frogs. Before harvesting starts, a ritual is performed that is believed to help in successful hunting. The water is disturbed and the frogs run hiding under grasses at the bank where they are trapped and captured. Harvesting is done during the early mornings and by afternoon the frogs are ready for the market. A single hunter can catch up to about 50 frogs on a good day, and so if there are many hunters you can imagine how many frogs would be captured in a day. We gave the hunters some education and sensitization on the importance and the need for us to conserve the frogs that are in our locality. SAVE THE FROGS! UDS Chapter with support from SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana aims to give alternative livelihoods and protein sources to these people so that the frogs can be saved. SAVE THE FROGS! SAVE THE WORLD!"
Learn all about the Cambodian frog legs trade: Fauna & Flora International released an Investigation into Frog Consumption and Trade in Cambodia written by its Species, Habitats and Ecosystems Team.
One of the world's largest consumers of frog legs, many of which are imported from neighboring Southeast Asian countries, China also has a proliferating frog farm industry. This photo by Bai Changming shows American Bullfrogs being sold by Wal-Mart in China.
In March 2011, SAVE THE FROGS! supporter Karen Benzel informed us that the Bernardus Lodge & Winery had plans to feature wild-caught frog legs at an upcoming event. We called Bernardus, told them that frogs were rapidly disappearing and requested they not serve frog legs. Chef Cal Stamenov decided not to order frogs for the event or in the future. This demonstrates the importance of environmental education and SAVE THE FROGS' campaigns to raise awareness of frog extinctions. You can't fix a problem if nobody knows the problem exists...but you CAN fix it if they do know!
VICTORY FOR THE FROGS!
"We are fortunate to have an organization such as SAVE THE FROGS! in our local community. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me and share your expertise of the ecological damage created by the frog markets. I wish you the best of success in sharing your knowledge, spreading education and fundraising on behalf of frogs in the future."
--Gina Martin, Assistant to Chef Cal Stamenov, Bernardus Lodge
Because of the hard work of SAVE THE FROGS! volunteers, Wegman's supermarket chain has discontinued sales of frog legs at their 76 locations. This makes Wegman's the first supermarket in the world to remove frog legs from their shelves for environmental reasons. You can read our letter that prompted Wegmans' decision...and then send a similar letter to a frog-leg selling supermarket in your neighborhood!
In April 2010, San Francisco's Restaurant Gary Danko became the first restaurant in the world to remove frog legs from their menus. They removed the wild-caught Pig Frogs from their menus after SAVE THE FROGS! asked them to do so.
No. The frogs are either taken out of the wild, or they are raised in farms; the farmed frogs have high rates of chytrid infection, and they are often large non-native species that prey upon native frogs. The American Bullfrog is the most commonly farmed frog around the world. The bullfrogs commonly escape their rearing facilities and establish populations outside their native range, which is the eastern USA and Canada. The bullfrogs eat native frogs, birds, bats, snakes and other wildlife, and spread diseases. Many bullfrogs are shipped live to the USA, where they infect our native frog populations, causing irreparable harm.
SAVE THE FROGS! requests that you not purchase frog legs or support businesses that sell them. Remember though, it is up to you to educate that business about the harm being caused by the frog legs trade!
Yes. History shows that humans eat many species of wildlife to extinction. America consumes 20% of the world's frog legs. We believe that we can significantly reduce the number of restaurants serving frog legs, and thus our frog legs campaign has achievable goals.
"Leg by leg the ecosystem will crumble on top of us if we fail to act".
Yes. And the six billion humans on the planet need to be intelligent about what they eat. In America, there are many alternatives to frog legs. The reality is that frog legs in America are generally eaten as a joke by people who are completely unaware of the ecological damage being wrought by their impulsive and whimsical menu decision.
France nearly ate their native frogs to extinction, which is why they are no longer allowed to eat native frogs. Cultures must be changed once they are no longer beneficial; thus, Fijians and Papua New Guineans do not often complain that they are no longer allowed to cannibalize their fellow humans. Similarly, Japanese, Norwegians and Icelanders claim they should be allowed to hunt whales because it is "part of their culture". Eating an animal to extinction, however, is inexcusable and should not be allowed. Read this London Times article about the frog legs black market in France.
In summary: France is on our list.
The FDA has banned the importation of frog legs from all but one Bangladeshi company due to Salmonella. Shipments from companies in China and 7 other Asian countries have also been prohibited. Read more here.
The more people know about the problems associated with the frog legs trade, the less demand there will be for frog legs. SAVE THE FROGS! does our best to make sure our campaign makes major news outlets. Below are some of the articles highlighting our campaign.
ABC NEWS covers our Frog Legs Protests
Conor Finnegan of ABC News interviewed SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger about the increase in American's consumption of frog legs. Read the article here, and a transcript of the interview here.
Chicago Tribune Covers Frog Legs Victory
Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune wrote this story about Restaurant Gary Danko removing frog legs from their menu.
Save The Frogs on cover of France's Le Monde
Catherine Vincent wrote this article that appeared on the cover page of France's largest paper. The article highlights our work, and the problems with the frog legs trade, of which France is the largest participant.
SAVE THE FROGS! on John Tesh's website
John Tesh helped get the word out about our campaign to end the ecologically damaging frog legs trade. Here's the article:
The Popular Dish, Frog Legs, Is Pushing Frogs to The Brink of Extinction
Radio Interview on Crop To Cuisine
Dov Hirsch of Crop To Cuisine interviewed SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger about the rise of the frog legs trade in America. You can listen to it here (or download the mp3 by right clicking).
Frog Legs Protests in Florida
This article in the Broward Palm Beach New Times highlighted our first frog legs protests in the state of Florida: "Frog Lovers Protest Uncle Julio's in Boca Raton for Serving Frog Legs".
By Katie Saporita, Age 13
From the 200 SAVE THE FROGS! Poetry Contest
I'm just a humble frog
Hiding from the aliens.
They invaded my forest
And eat us with no mercy.
I don't know what to do
To hide from this creature.
And I try to survive
But there seems to be more.
As I sit upon your plate
And your mouth begins to salivate
Yesterday my brother died
And today my legs are fried.
With a fork in your hand,
You must not understand.
You aren't just eating just one frog
But killing an entire race.
So I hope you'll reconsider,
As you lift me towards your face.
SAVE THE FROGS!
-- By Juanita Kochel
From the 2011 SAVE THE FROGS! Poetry Contest