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Turkey returns 7,500 trafficked frogs to the wild

Five poachers were arrested after police discovered a massive operation to sell frogs to France and China

18 October 2017, 3:16pm
The export of edible frogs is a lucrative trade, with large markets in France and China where the amphibians are a delicacy (Photo: Christian Bruna/EPA)
The export of edible frogs is a lucrative trade, with large markets in France and China where the amphibians are a delicacy (Photo: Christian Bruna/EPA)
Turkey’s gendarmerie has released 7,500 frogs into the wild, after capturing five poachers involved in one of the largest frog trafficking operations in the country.

The country’s state news agency said the men were detained when their minibus was examined during a routine check, as they travelled through the touristic region of Cappadoccia.

Officers found dozens of nets with thousands of captured frogs inside.

The men were allegedly destined for Adana, where they intended to sell them to an exporter.

The export of edible frogs is a lucrative trade, with large markets in France and China where the amphibians are a delicacy. Turkey issues licenses for frog hunters, but it is only permitted in certain seasons and some frog species cannot be legally traded.

“We just released the frogs back to nature because they were caught without permission and outside permitted hunting areas,” said Hasan Hüseyin Doğançay, head of the district livestock agency, in a statement on the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Dogancay said it was the largest poaching operation he had ever seen in his career.

The number of captured frogs was huge in comparison to prior operations, said F Gözde Çilingir, a Turkish PhD candidate at the National University of Singapore, who studies conservation genomics of endangered animals.

“The problem here is these guys did not farm the frogs, they basically went out and caught as many frogs as they could to sell them to the farms, which is not acceptable because this way of collection is not controlled,” she said. “There are permitted seasons for frog collection, and some frog species should not be collected at all because they are endangered, vulnerable or their statuses are unknown. There are also many endemic frog species in that region, the trade of which is restricted.”

The frogs were poached from the Kızılırmak river basin, which originates in eastern Anatolia and flows into the Black Sea. The Kızılırmak delta and wetlands are among the most ecologically diverse regions in Turkey, with more than 350 bird species and 560 plant species. Turkey last year proposed designating the area as a Unesco site of outstanding universal value.

The French appetite for frogs has often been blamed for dwindling populations and environmental damage in places like Indonesia, which is one of the largest exporters of frog legs to Europe.

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