Ban the trade in amphibians!

Frog on a plate Frogs’ legs are considered a delicacy in France, Belgium and the southern USA. (© Studio-Annika / istockphoto.com - Collage Rettet den Regenwald)

Hundreds of frog and other amphibian species are being wiped out by a highly contagious fungus. The disease, which has already driven at least 120 species to extinction, is being spread around the world by the international amphibian trade. Please call for a ban on the trade to help contain this pandemic.

Call to action

To: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), cc: CITES, IUCN, WTO, World Customs Organization

Amphibians around the world are dying of a deadly fungus. Ban the trade in amphibians, which is the main driver behind the spread of the pathogen.

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The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is currently the greatest threat to amphibians’ survival – of around 7,800 known amphibian species, at least 120 have so far been lost forever.

The pathogen originated on the Korean peninsula. It is being spread around the world by the international trade in amphibians for research purposes, as pets and as food. The million-dollar trade in frogs’ legs plays a major role in this.

The fungus infects the skin of the animals, inhibits skin respiration and disturbs their metabolism. It is highly contagious and often fatal, swiftly destroying entire populations of frogs, toads and other amphibians.

Researchers are particularly concerned that the trade is helping spread new strains that are endangering amphibian species that have developed a resistance to the original pathogen.

The fungus is a “nail in the coffin for amphibians”, says biologist Dirk Schmeller from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany, who participated in an international study on the fungus.

Please sign our petition and call for an end to the amphibian trade to prevent the further spread of the pandemic.

Back­ground

Very little is available in the way of reliable figures on the amphibian trade. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the world aquaculture output of frogs and other amphibians in 2005 to be nearly 85,000 tons, worth a third of a billion US dollars.

Between 2006 and 2014, more than 26 million live amphibians were imported into the United States for commercial purposes. More than 130,000 amphibians per year were imported via London’s Heathrow Airport in the early 2000s. Illegal trafficking in protected and endangered species also plays a significant role.

Customs documents often do not specify the scientific name of the traded animal species. This is frequently the case for species that are not restricted by the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Data from Canada shows the extent to which amphibians are infected with the fungus: of 172 species imported, 43 tested positive for Bd. As early as May 2008, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) listed Bd as a disease requiring notification. Ranaviruses, which have also been associated with amphibian die-offs, are also spread through international trade.

The North American bullfrog, which is a carrier of the fungus but does not die from it, plays the main role in the frogs’ leg trade. Almost half of the frogs’ legs traded worldwide come from Indonesia, where many animals are caught in nature. The main importers are Belgium, France and the United States.

Between 1999 and 2009, 53 percent of frogs’ legs imported into the EU went to Belgium, 23 percent to France and 17 percent to the Netherlands. Belgium imported 24,696 tons, France 10,453 tons and the Netherlands 7,960 tons. A large share of the Belgian imports are resold to France. To put those figures into perspective, visitors to the “Frog Festival”, which is held every year in Vittel, France, consume around seven tons of frogs’ legs – and around 350,000 frogs are killed for this dubious pleasure.

Sources and links

Scientists find ‘ground zero’ of deadly frog pandemic

https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/scientists-find-ground-zero-of-deadly-frog-pandemic/

Global frog pandemic may become even deadlier as strains combine

https://news.mongabay.com/2018/07/global-frog-pandemic-may-become-even-deadlier-as-strains-combine/?n3wsletter&utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=dceb8bffc3-newsletter_2018_07_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-dceb8bffc3-67234963

How the International Trade in Geckos Is a Scam

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160106-tokay-geckos-indonesia-traditional-medicines-wildlife-trade-traffic/

Trading in extinction: how the pet trade is killing off many animal species

https://theconversation.com/trading-in-extinction-how-the-pet-trade-is-killing-off-many-animal-species-71571

How the pet trade is killing frogs — and the genetic sleuthing that uncovered it

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/environment-and-nature/20180510/how-the-pet-trade-is-killing-frogs-and-the-genetic-sleuthing-that-uncovered-it

Studie: Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6389/621

Studie: Development and worldwide use of non-lethal, and minimal population-level impact, protocols for the isolation of amphibian chytrid fungi

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-24472-2

Salamander: Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans: Deadly fungal threat to salamanders

https://amphibiaweb.org/chytrid/Bsal.html

World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)

http://www.oie.int/

Risk of survival, establishment and spread of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in the EU

http://doc.oie.int:8080/dyn/portal/index.seam?page=alo&aloId=35406&fonds=&cid=148

Report of the meeting of the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission 2017

http://doc.oie.int:8080/seam/resource/directMedia/P2t1hfsPkM6j2YWZVhj41gSlyyc_L3rT?binaryFileId=14393&cid=148

Amphibian diseases flow through animal trade

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/amphibian-diseases-flow-through-animal-trade

International trade in amphibians: a customs perspective

http://www.amphibians.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Alytes_2012_gerson.pdf

Is the international frog legs trade a potential vector for deadly amphibian pathogens?

https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1890/090111

Trends in US Imports of Amphibians in Light of the Potential Spread of Chytrid Fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), and Implications for Conservation

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13880292.2017.1403796

Amphibian Ark

http://www.amphibianark.org

There is no proposed ban on the US amphibian trade

http://www.amphibianark.org/pdf/US_amphibian_trade_proposal.pdf

IUCN Amphibian Conservation Action Plan

http://www.amphibianark.org/pdf/ACAP.pdf

The global amphibian trade flows through Europe: the need for enforcing and improving legislation

https://biblio.ugent.be/publication/8515142

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-016-1193-8

Scientists find frog legs trade may facilitate spread of pathogens

https://phys.org/news/2009-11-scientists-frog-legs-pathogens.html

Save the Frogs

https://www.savethefrogs.com/

The Amphibian Trade: Bans or Best Practice?

https://www.savethefrogs.com/d/who-we-are/staff/kerry-kriger/pdfs/Garner-2009-Reply-to-Kriger.pdf

Is the demand for amphibians as pets threatening their survival in the wild?

https://australianmuseum.net.au/blogpost/amri-news/amri-demand-for-amphibians-as-pets

Spread of Chytridiomycosis Has Caused the Rapid Global Decline and Extinction of Frogs

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10393-007-0093-5

Two amphibian diseases, chytridiomycosis and ranaviral disease, are now globally notifiable to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): an assessment

https://www.int-res.com/articles/dao2009/special/fungus/fungpp7.pdf

Canapés to Extinction: The International Trade in Frogs’ Legs and its Ecological Impact

http://www.prowildlife.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Frogs-Legs_report_finalA4_web.pdf

Letter

To: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), cc: CITES, IUCN, WTO, World Customs Organization

Executive Director Erik Solheim,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Scientists worldwide are observing an alarming amphibian pandemic caused by a highly contagious and often deadly fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

According to recent studies, the pathogen has spread from the Korean peninsula to South America and Europe. This has been made possible by the international trade in amphibians. Scientists therefore advocate a ban on the trade.

We support this call, which is backed by a wide range of scientific findings.

Please ban the trade in amphibians to help curb this unfolding biodiversity crisis.

Yours faithfully,

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