Un­der threat

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

IT MAY not be im­me­di­ately clear but frogs play a vi­tal role in our ecosys­tem as preda­tor and prey.

As tad­poles, they are food for larger an­i­mals and fil­ter feed­ers that con­sume bac­te­ria and al­gae in a par­tic­u­lar aquatic sys­tem. As frogs, they con­sume agri­cul­tural pests and mos­qui­toes, some of which carry deadly dis­eases.

Many coun­tries that re­port a de­clin­ing frog pop­u­la­tion are also reporting a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in use of pes­ti­cides. This is dis­turb­ing be­cause ex­ces­sive use of pes­ti­cides is known to be harm­ful to peo­ple and the environment.

It is about time these crea­tures are given due at­ten­tion. Am­phib­ians – an­i­mals that live partly on land and in water – are the most threat­ened an­i­mal group. One-third of all am­phib­ian species are now listed as threat­ened.

Be­sides the threats posed by en­vi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate changes, the global de­mand for frog meat is en­dan­ger­ing the sur­vival of the species.

At first glance, farm­ing may seem to be the so­lu­tion to a rapidly de­clin­ing frog pop­u­la­tion. Af­ter all, it makes sense – more frogs from farms means less pres­sure on those in the wild, right?

Not true, says a 2009 pa­per pub­lished in Fron­tiers In Ecol­ogy And The Environment. Bi­ol­o­gist Brian Gratwicke and his col­leagues stress that farm­ing is not an eco­log­i­cally re­spon­si­ble op­tion.

Firstly, farmed frogs have the po­ten­tial to spread deadly dis­eases such as the chytrid­iomy­co­sis fun­gus – the cause of nu­mer­ous pop­u­la­tion die-offs – rana viruses and Sal­mo­nella bac­te­ria to other farmed stocks and wild pop­u­la­tions.

The farm­ing of non-na­tive frogs can also cause se­ri­ous prob­lems if those species are re­leased or es­cape and be­come in­va­sive. The pop­u­lar Amer­i­can bull­frog, for ex­am­ple, is on the list of “100 of the world’s worst in­va­sive alien species”.

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