PANAJI: The first monsoon thunder in Goa comes along with a rather modest but equally harmonious accompaniment in the form of croaking bull frogs that are hunted and eaten with relish here. But their rampant poaching has also raised the hackles of green activists.
The anti-poaching campaign has begun early this season. The forest department's 'Save the Frog' campaign, supported by wildlife enthusiasts and NGOs, has already led to the detention of six poachers in the first five days of the monsoon which arrived June 3.
Frogs are protected species. Catching, killing and selling frogs, or serving frog meat at eating places contravenes the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
According to wildlife enthusiasts who have been egging the forest department on, all state range forest officers have begun patrolling even outside notified forest areas, especially around fields and marsh lands to check for frog poaching.
"Each range deputed their team that consisted of an officer, a wildlife warden and a driver accompanied by wildlife volunteers," said Clinton Vaz, an avid wildlife enthusiast.
"Small time offenders are let off with a warning while those caught with a huge quantity of frogs are detained," Vaz said.
Vaz assisted two such patrols at Benaulim and Guddi Paroda and added that they caught around three frog poachers who were let off with a strict warning and their names were registered. Another four were detained in the same area a few days later.
Goa is home to around 40 species of amphibians, many of which are endemic to the region of the Western Ghats.
According to Goa's Principle Conservator of Wildlife Shashi Kumar, indiscriminate killing of frogs for their meat has led to a drastic decline in the frog population in the state.
"This has led to an ecological imbalance in terrestrial and aquatic systems, increased incidents of snakes encroaching human settlement areas and the spread of insects responsible for various diseases like malaria," he said.
Into its sixth year, the 'Save the Frog' campaign is coordinated by WildGoa, a network of wildlife enthusiasts and NGOs. It has the full support of the Goa forest department and a number of local as well as international organisations, including Amphibian Ark, GOACAN (Goa Consumer Action Network) and WWF-Goa.
In 1985, the central government declared a ban on the catching and killing of frogs under the Wildlife (Protection) Act. Until then, frogs were openly caught and their braised, curried and fried legs served in restaurants.
Their chicken-like taste brought it many takers. After the 1985 ban, frog legs have continued to be sold, albeit clandestinely, code named as "jumping chicken".
In Goa, the two largest species: the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) and the Jerdon's Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus), are selectively poached for their large fleshy legs.
The Indian Pond Frog, Grass Frog and the Common Indian Toad are also occasionally poached. An insatiable demand at restaurants for illegal frog meat has ensured a lucrative return to the poacher for a pair of frog legs.
The Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon's Bullfrog are now listed on the Schedule-I List of threatened species recognised by the central government, as well the IUCN Red List recognised internationally.