The Indian Bullfrog: in imminent danger

Indian Bullfrog - Hoplobatrachus tigerinus
Hunting,capturing and killing of any frog species is banned in the state of Goa under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Similarly, serving frog meat in restaurants or private establishments is illegal and can result in a fine and/or imprisonment. (Photo of Indian Bullfrog by Nirmal Kulkarni)

Nirmal Kulkarni of Goa Wild Watch brings us this update from Goa, India:

The South West monsoons have swept across the state and pulled a luxuriant green carpet on our wild as well as urban landscapes. Amidst the sprouting of new shoots and the flowering of seasonal herbs are the distinct calls of the frogs that herald the arrival of the monsoons – a season of vibrant life and joy for most species – for most species other than the frogs themselves!

This is because the monsoons are a time when local people systematically hunt the frogs for food. Considered as Jumping Chicken, a local delicacy for many Goans, the trend of hunting the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) has now reached appalling proportions.

Across every landscape in the night, one finds groups of youth and old alike going around catching these important species in the hundreds, oblivious to the fact that they are contributing to the local extinction of a key indicator species of amphibian just to satisfy their own taste buds.

Indian Bullfrog tadpoles feed on mosquitoe larvae, controlling their numbers and thereby preventing diseases and helping to save human lives. The Indian Bull Frog is an enigmatic species that used to be found across the state of Goa and was an integral component of any local ecosystem be it a pond, well or field until the upsurge in poaching about 5 years ago.

But today the Indian Bullfrog is fighting a losing battle in almost all its past habitats in our state due to a variety of reasons including extensive poaching, habitat loss and alteration and usage of pesticide. Due to the rise in haphazard development, especially on all our plateau areas in the state, the change in land use pattern has reduced vital breeding areas and left little space for this amphibian species to breed and sustain healthy populations. The extensive usage of pesticides has further pushed these crucial indicators of healthy ecosystems to the brink of local extinction as our farmlands and orchards are now repeatedly being abused with inorganic pesticides and fertilizers, which act as a toxin to scores of amphibian species including the Indian Bullfrog.

Despite a ban on the hunting of frogs in Goa state, consumption continues unabated. The Goa Forest department has resorted to creating awareness and ensuring that at least the protected area network of our sanctuaries is free from frog hunting. Aside from that, the poachers continue to have a field day when it comes to hunting frogs for the platter.

The need to enforce the ban on hunting is critical and requires attention at two levels. The trade has to be aborted at the supply end where poachers can be apprehended by teams of officials of the Wildlife Division and the Goa Police, and the demand has to be abolished by raids being conducted by officials on establishment and outlets serving frog meat as a delicacy! Let us be clear that the trade would never end if the demand is not stopped and this can only be addressed by taking strict action including cancellation of establishment licenses, attachment of equipment including of vehicles used for transportation of poached frogs, etc. This would send a strong signal to those who defy the law, and would also assist Indian Bullfrog populations.

As concerned citizens, it is our duty to report frog hunting to the nearest Forest Department office or police station. What remains to be seen is how serious are the Government agencies in imposing the Ban of Frog Hunting this year. As the distinct calls of the Indian Bull frog are silenced in yet another locale day after day, the fact that remains to be seen is the period of time when the species would jump into local extinction…never to be seen again.

Learn more about saving the Indian Bullfrog.