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Overharvested water frogs may soon vanish in Turkey

Water frogs may become locally extinct across parts of Turkey in just over a decade due to overharvesting.

A study published by Cambridge University Press has revealed the population of Anatolian water frogs declined by around 20 percent each year between 2013 and 2015 in the Ceyhan and Seyhan deltas.

Frog harvesting is a 40-year-old industry in Turkey that brings in about $4 million each year. While the frogs are rarely eaten domestically, Turkey exports more than 36 million frogs each year.

The frogs are often fried or grilled in the United States, stir-fried in China, and used in an Indonesian dish called swikee.

For the investigation, the researchers tagged 13,811 frogs in various ponds, irrigation canals, and streams.

The experts found there is a 90 percent chance Anatolian water frogs will be completely wiped out in the south-central Çukurova Region by 2050. If harvesting continues at the current rate, the frogs will likely vanish in just 12 years.

Amphibians are among the most endangered animals, threatened by a variety of factors such as habitat loss, disease, invasive species, and overharvesting. These animals play an important ecological role as both predators and prey.

“Declining amphibian populations worldwide could have an irreversible and destructive impact on both natural ecosystems and human welfare. They are integral components of many ecosystems, often constituting the highest fraction of vertebrate biomass,” wrote the study authors. 

“Unfortunately, the literature on declining amphibian populations and its conservation has increased exponentially each year. We must stop the alarming decline of amphibians before it’s too late.”

The experts noted that when frog harvest was banned in France and Romania, exports ramped up in India and Bangladesh and caused population declines. After harvesting was subsequently banned in these countries, the pressure shifted to frog populations in China and Indonesia, which are now the two largest exporters of frogs.

In Turkey, overharvesting in some regions will cause a domino effect that places strain on additional wild frog populations that are currently stable. 

“It is obvious that unsustainable harvest damages frog populations irrevocably in any part of the world,” said study co-author Kerim Cicek. 

“We can see this in Turkey, but it has also taken place in France, and it is now taking place in the USA, Indonesia, and so on. It is important to ban harvesting or to take other precautions.”

The research is published in the journal Oryx -The International Journal of Conservation.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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