Posted by SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger
One of the greatest threats to California’s native wildlife is the continued introduction of non-native American Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana or Lithobates catesbeianus). The bullfrogs, widely regarded as one of the world’s worst invasive species, prey on native wildlife and spread infectious diseases. California currently imports several million live American Bullfrogs into the state annually, most coming from Asian frog farms.
In March 2010, the California Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to stop issuing permits for the importation of non-native frogs (and turtles) for use as food. However, at the request of six Asian-American politicians from the San Francisco area (Fiona Ma; Leland Yee; Ted Lieu; Warren Furutani; Paul Fong; Mike Eng), the Commission held a “re-consideration” hearing on May 19th, 2010. I testified at the hearing, and 1,196 SAVE THE FROGS! supporters sent letters to the Commission asking them to uphold their original ruling. Amidst cries of cultural insensitivity, the Commission voted 3-2 this time to stop issuing permits. A close call, but victory nonetheless. This victory however was short-lived: to date the California Department of Fish & Game continues to issue permits, and the Commission appears powerless to stop them.
So long as there are politicians and constituents who do not know or care about the problems frogs face, it will be incredibly difficult to SAVE THE FROGS!. Thus I wrote Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s office to request a meeting with Ms. Ma. As she had spoken out against the importation ban, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she agreed to a 45-minute meeting at which I would give a presentation on amphibian conservation. On Wednesday May 19th, 2011 I arrived at her office in downtown San Francisco and was happy to see a room full of 35-40 of her interns awaiting my presentation. Most of them were high schoolers, a few were college students. Ms. Ma arrived and I gave my usual talk on the threats to frogs, why frogs are important, ways normal people can save frogs, and the work I do with SAVE THE FROGS!. Fiona and the interns made Striped Marsh Frog Calls. I discussed the non-natives issue and requested that Ms. Ma not block frog legislation in the future, or even better that she speak to the other 5 politicians about the issue or introduce pro-frog legislation.
At the end of my presentation, Ms. Ma explained to her interns why she had opposed the ban. She said her constituents like eating frogs, and the pet industry should also have been targeted but was not, and thus the frog legs ban was unfair. She spoke of making hard decisions and the difficulties pleasing all parties when one is a politician. We agreed that the best way to save the frogs — while keeping the vote of the Asian community and getting new votes from the non-Asian community — is to ensure that everybody is educated about frogs and the environment. Ms. Ma and I thanked each other and she left for her next meeting. I stayed for another 15 minutes taking questions from the interns, who were all very interested in frog conservation, especially with regards to the politics of saving frogs.
Will Assemblywoman Ma vote for the frogs in the future? I’m not sure, but I know she will understand the issues and think twice before speaking out against pro-frog legislation. And I have no doubt she will be surrounded by interns who like frogs – and that they may be her opposition one day if she doesn’t do her best to SAVE THE FROGS!
“Hi Kerry, thank you so much for your willingness to talk to all of us interns! I know I and many others really enjoyed it and were inspired by your dedication and passionate work towards saving the frogs. What type of work could I get involved in helping SAVE THE FROGS? Again, thanks so much for your time and inspiring work!” — Lyla Wilton, Marin Academy
Educating San Francisco’s Students
In cooperation with Tree Frog Treks and the San Francisco Tadpole Headstart Program, SAVE THE FROGS! is giving educational presentations on frogs at elementary schools throughout the San Francisco area. We have already been to four schools and plan to visit 15 more this fall. By educating the next generation about the importance of frogs and by inspiring them to care for the planet, we will ensure that politicians will not need to decide between voting for the environment and pleasing their constituents: the choice will be simple, since their constituents will be predominantly supportive of environmental conservation efforts.
About the American Bullfrog
The American Bullfrog is North America’s largest frog. It is a voracious predator capable of eating California Red-Legged Frogs, bats, ducks and even 33-inch garter snakes. Bullfrogs are native to the eastern USA and Canada, but are farmed worldwide for use as frog legs. The crowded conditions at the farms are perfect for the growth and spread of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), causative agent of chytridiomycosis, which has driven up to 100 amphibian species to complete extinction worldwide in recent decades. A recent study estimated that 62% of the bullfrogs entering California from Asian frog farms are infected with the chytrid fungus. Bullfrogs serve as perfect vectors for fungus, as the frogs can survive infection loads of millions of chytrid zoospores. Because the infected frogs don’t die from the fungus, they are able to spread the pathogen to native amphibian populations. Though some from the pet and food industries claim the fungus cannot get to native populations, this is incorrect: bullfrogs regularly escape or get set free into the wild, and the water in which they are held gets set out into the environment every time it is flushed down the drain.