The frog legs they are perhaps the most typical French dish. Crispy, fried and seasoned with garlic, they are served in many restaurants and annual consumption in France reaches 4,000 tons. But while the Ministry of Agriculture considers the dish part of the culinary heritage of Burgundy-France-Comté in eastern France, most frogs’ legs now come from elsewhere.

Mass imports from Asia

In France itself, edible species of frogs have been protected for decades and their fishing strictly regulated. In Burgundy-France-Comté, the fishing and killing of frogs is allowed under certain conditions, between February and April, when they come to the lakes to breed. However, about 2,800 tons of frog legs are imported every year from abroad. Thus, the high demand not only threatens the rare species of frogs in the exporting countries, but also the balance of their ecosystems.

Amphibian expert Ganjar Kahyanti, curator of the Museum of Zoology in Java, Indonesia, which is the biggest exporter, tells the German News Agency that “the frogfoot trade is poorly monitored and regulated by the government,” adding that “we have no data on the how many frogs are exported and how many remain in the wild.”

The situation is similar in Vietnam, which is also a major exporter of amphibians. The number of frogs has declined significantly in recent decades, says Mai Nguyen of the animal protection organization Humane Society International. “When I was a child living in the countryside, frogs were easy to find and catch, but now – almost 40 years later – wild frogs are hard to come by“, says. So far, there are no plans to restrict trade and exports.

However, the rainforests in Southeast Asia and especially in Indonesia are known for their great biodiversity – even today species unknown until now are being discovered there. It is possible that widespread hunting of frogs will wipe out entire species before they are recorded by scientists, as Kahyanti explains, which is why measures must be taken urgently to protect the animals.

Exports disrupt ecosystems

Equally important is the fact that frogs are both prey and hunters and therefore an integral part of the ecosystems in which they live. Especially when it comes to reducing the population of insects such as grasshoppers and mosquitoes, these amphibians are essential.

Frogs are natural insectivores. They eat insects that can cause problems in agriculture and public health“, explains Kahyanti. “Without the frogs, we would have to use more chemicals to fight these insects“, with significant effects not only on the environment, but also on people’s health. Kahyanti advocates frog farming as an alternative to exports, which would also benefit the local economy by creating jobs.

Frog farms are on the rise in France

Patrick Francois had a similar idea. 13 years ago, the fishmonger set up perhaps the country’s first frog farm in the southern French village of Pierrelat, near Provence. From birth to slaughter, the animals spend their entire lives in one of the hundred or so tanks of the farm. There, there are also special freezing areas for frog legs imported from Southeast Asia or live frogs imported from Turkey. In this way, François pursues a more ecological approach, “without removing frogs from their natural environment».

Until recently he supplied frog legs to about a dozen high society clients. Francois’ example was followed by a few other breeders, who also set up frog farms. According to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture from 2019, the annual production of frog legs reaches 10 tons and it is estimated that the number could increase significantly in the future. However, only a small fraction of annual consumption is expected to come from France itself in the future.