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The global market for frog legs and for pet frogs and salamanders is extensive. Between 1998 and 2002, nearly 15 million wild-caught amphibians were legally imported into the United States. Considering that there is also a large illegal trade in amphibians (the numbers of which are never reported), that the United States accounts for only about 15% of the world's amphibian trade, and that many amphibians are also used domestically in their country of harvest, it is likely that well over 100 million amphibians are removed from the wild each year. This level of harvest is without a doubt unsustainable, and is a large contributor to population declines in many regions. As such, we strongly advise against purchasing or consuming any wild-caught amphibian. If you are not certain of the origin of the amphibian in question, please assume it is wild-caught and act accordingly.
The harvesting of amphibians for the frog legs trade is often unregulated, and in many underdeveloped countries, such as Thailand and Indonesia, is likely a primary contributor to amphibian declines. Approximately 80,000,000 frogs (4,000 tons of frog legs) are exported from Indonesia each year, and it is thought that at least twice as many frogs are sold on the domestic market. India was a major exporter of frog legs until the practice was banned in 1987 over concerns of an increase in agricultural pests in the absence of frogs. In western Africa, the endangered Goliath Frog Conrau goliath, which can weigh up to 3 kg (6.6 lbs), is under serious threat from poachers.
Think Americans don't eat many frog legs? The United States is the second largest importer of frog legs, after France, and consumption is on the rise: imports of frog legs to the United States tripled from 1995 to 2005.
Brightly colored frogs are highly desired by pet collectors. Most of these species come from rainforests in developing countries where few harvesting regulations exist, and few people have alternative employment. As such, many species such as the Red-Eyed Treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas) and Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio) are under threat from over-harvesting. Learn all about the pet trade here.
Dr. Samy Zalat, a professor of biodiversity and evolutionary biology in Egypt's Ministry of Environment estimates that over 1,000,000 Egyptian frogs are taken out of the wild each year for use in university laboratories. Learn all about frog dissections here.
The sale and translocation of tiger salamanders (Ambystoma) for use as bait for fishermen has the potential to spread chytrid fungus and ranaviruses to wild populations in the Western USA. There are also concerns regarding genetic pollution of native populations, since salamanders are being shipped around the country. The use of live amphibians as bait is also ethically unacceptable as it requires hooking a vertebrate through the pelvic region or head, which undoubtedly causes the animal excruciating pain. We have no idea what widespread collection and trade is doing to wild populations of this species, and any animal that is traded in the thousands should be properly monitored and appropriately regulated. Arizona has banned the trade in these animals within the range of the Sonoran Tiger Salamander as a result of previous studies in New Mexico and Arizona. Other states should follow suit.
In Ghana, large numbers of frogs are collected by kids for use as bait. A simple solution would be to provide fishing lures for the villagers.
Our society is fortunate to have alternative sources of protein that are not directly responsible for amphibian extinctions, and thus the frog legs trade should not be permitted in the United States. SAVE THE FROGS! has begun working with major restaurant chains to have them remove frog legs from their menu. Sign up for our free electronic newsletter so you can stay posted on our progress, and send letters to restaurant CEO's when necessary.
"Our goal should be to keep common species as common as possible".
-- Joe Franke
Eating Frogs to Extinction: a very interesting article by Warkentin et al. (2009), on which much of this page is based.
Challenges in Evaluating the Impact of the Trade in Amphibians and Reptiles on Wild Populations by Schlaepfer et al. (2005).
Learn all about amphibian and reptile smuggling in Bryan Christy's book The Lizard King. Please also read our How to Help page to learn about many more of the negative side effects of eating frog legs.