Poaching frogs for their meat, secretly referred to as ‘jumping chicken’ in restaurants, is one main reasons for the drastic decline in the number of Indian bullfrogs in the state. The Indian Bullfrog and Jerdon Bullfrog, listed on the Schedule-I List of threatened species by the central government, is also on the IUCN Red List recognised internationally. Presently, owing to the persistent campaigning by Goa Forest Department and other conservators the situation seems to be under control. NT BUZZ digs into the frog poaching scenario in Goa
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Termed as slimy looking, feared instead of being valued, amphibians have been an integral part of our ecosystem for the vital role they play in maintaining a balance. From time immemorial, whether it is lizards, snakes, frogs or any other amphibian, they have been either killed or shooed away by humans. Often termed as creepy, crawly, scary, these reptiles and amphibians are taken for granted.
Today, the world is home to over 6700 amphibians and over 9000 species of reptiles (discovered till 2017, according to herpactive.com), a group of creatures that deserve both our admiration and attention. Monsoons in Goa are welcomed by an unseen voice, that of the Indian Bullfrog [Hoplobatrachus (Rana)] which is the largest frog in India. Indian Bullfrog and Jerdon Bullfrog are two of the most commonly found species across the state and are an integral part of the ecosystem of any pond, well or field.
Besides bringing happiness and cheer to the face of a farmer or any rain lover, monsoon also brings with it illegalities such as frog poaching. Killed and poached for their meat these innocent creatures are pulled out from their natural habitat and served as delicacies. This in turn has resulted in a drastic decline in their population over the years. That is not all; killing of frogs causes an imbalance in the food chain thereby affecting the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
“Frogs mainly feed on mosquitoes and other insects thereby controlling the vectors of human diseases like malaria, filaria and encephalitis. Consumption of frogs over a period of time could trigger paralytic strokes, cancer, kidney failures and other deformities as the toxic recalcitrant residues from the agrochemicals used in the fields gets biomagnified in the food chain and may get accumulated in the fat deposits of these frogs,” says conservator, forest wildlife and promoter of eco-tourism, Anil Kumar.
Since 2003, president of Animal Rescue Squad, Amrut Singh has been protecting frogs from trafficking. These trafficked frogs often end up in a commercial industry where they are given code names like ‘flying chicken’ or ‘jumping chicken’ and served to the customers. The increasing demand has also led to the drastic decline in the bullfrog population. “Indian bullfrogs breed during the monsoon season after which they are difficult to spot. In North Goa, places like Siolim, Bardez, Bicholim and Valpoi are high on frog poaching,” says Amrut. He further adds that many people are unaware of the poisonous insects the frogs consume which have a chemical reaction on their body. “The chemicals that their food contains are reflected on their skin. The adverse effects of consuming these frogs are manifested in complaints of skin and health issues,” says Amrut.
Although frog poaching is still an issue in Goa, Amrut opines that things are under control however awareness among schools and inculcating the civic sense of protecting the environment is the need right now. He also points out that patrolling having become strict in the state poachers have resorted to newer and different means for acquiring the meat. “Previously poachers would go out hunting for bullfrogs at night but now with patrolling being strict poachers set out in search of frogs after midnight or before dawn around 4 a.m.,” says Amrut.
Mission Green Goa is another organisation that has been continuously fighting to stop frog poaching by spreading awareness about its harmful effects on the environment. “This year there has not been any incidents of frog poaching in Taleigao. Earlier frog poaching was rampant across the state but with the awareness and the Forest Department patrolling in areas where bullfrog poaching has been rampant in the past the situation is under control,” says Tallulah D’Silva of the Mission Green Goa who further adds that bullfrogs being natural predators have a crucial role to play in maintaining a balance in the food chain.
Indian bullfrogs are a protected species under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and cannot be caught or hunted. Offenders can be booked under violation of Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which prescribes a minimum punishment of three years imprisonment. To help and bring frog poaching under control Goa Forest Department has a team of RFO (Range Forest Officer) who work round the clock patrolling at places which have recorded instances of frog poaching in the past. Pre-monsoon showers lashed Goa in the last few days and till now two cases in South Goa have been registered with the Goa Forest Department. “As we were on regular patrolling which goes on for 24 hours three people identified to be from Fatorda were found with torches and a sack full of frogs. Another instance was where two people from Kurdi were caught committing the same offence. The frogs were later released into their natural habitat and the violators are booked under Wildlife Protection Act,” says deputy conservator of forests, South Goa, Anil Shetgaonkar. He adds: “Distinguishing between a frog poacher and a person who is out catching fish and snails is becoming a problem as there is no mechanism to keep a check on that.”
While in North Goa there has not been a single instance this year where frogs were harmed or killed. “Frogs come out of hibernation on the start of rains and thus we conduct routine rounds across places that are habitat to bullfrogs including Farmagudi and Nargaon in Ponda,” says deputy conservator of forests, North Goa, Kuldeep Sharma.
To end any illegality in the society it is very important that the people at the grass root level support the fight against the unlawful act. Shetgaonkar reveals that they have received tremendous support from local bodies and citizens who want to put an end to frog poaching in the state. “The locals, NGO’s and other well-wishers have played a crucial role, informing us about such offenders. It is the responsibility of each and everyone to inform the concerned authority if they come across frog poaching in their vicinity. This will help in tracking down the offenders and ending this problem at the earliest,” says Shetgaonkar.