Panaji, June 16 - Smoking cigarettes is not the only way to contract cancer. If one believes the Goa Forest Department, eating frog meat can also get you a date with cancer.
Around this time of the year poachers, with a torch in one hand and a bag in the other, slosh around marshy fields and open areas sodden with rain, hunting for frogs and their meaty hind legs. However, forest officials have issued an advisory which claims that eating frog meat could lead to an exotic cocktail of illnesses, ranging from cancer to kidney failure to paralytic strokes.
The advisory calls humans the greatest predator of frogs and their indiscriminate killing is drastically reducing the amphibians' population.
Massive toxic recalcitrant residues from agrochemicals biomagnified in the food chain get accumulated in fat deposits of frogs. Continuous consumption of frogs could trigger paralytic strokes, cancers, kidney failures and other deformities, the advisory reads.
Over the years, the Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon's Bullfrog have been colloquially re-christened 'Jumping Chicken' in Goa. Both species have been hunted for their meat, which although contraband, is cooked and sold on the sly and eaten in several restaurants and homes.
A single frog is sold for up to Rs.250 and only its meaty hind legs are cooked and eaten.
Listed in Schedule-I of threatened species, which also include the tiger, the croaking of the humble frog once the monsoon begins would ordinarily help attract its female mate. But in Goa, with the passion and demand for frog meat increasing, the mating call also attracts village boys and adults, who almost ritualistically head for frog hunts every year, risking a stringent punishment of a Rs.25,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to three years under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Needless to say, although awareness about the importance of the frog for the region's ecological balance has increased, arrests and deterrents have failed to stop eager 'froggers'.
The forest department now feels that if not the fear of a fine or arrest, at least a cancer cautionary could stop people from killing and eating frogs.
It is a health hazard in a way because the frogs exist in the fields and their bodies accept agrochemicals which are used liberally in fields. These are cancerous elements. We are hoping that people will take note of it, a wildlife official told IANS.
Miguel Braganza of the Botanical Society of Goa says that the warning might just be a deterrent.
Health risks may have been amplified to deter people from eating frogs because punitive action just does not seem to work, Braganza said.
Animal conservationists like Clinton Vaz have been at the forefront of the Save the Frog campaign for years now. He says that along with the Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon Bullfrog species, 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, Vaz claims.