Unsustainable harvest of water frogs in southern Turkey for the European market

Çiçek, Kerim
Ayaz, Dinçer
Afsar, Murat
Bayrakcl, Yusuf
Pekşen, Çigdem Akln
Cumhuriyet, Oguzkan
Ismail, Ilhan Bayram
Yenmiş, Melodi
Üstündag, Erdal
Tok, Cemal Varol
Bilgin, Cemal Can
Akçakaya, H. Reşit
Frogs have been harvested from the wild for the last 40 years in Turkey. We analysed the population dynamics of Anatolian water frogs (Pelophylax spp.) in the Seyhan and Ceyhan Deltas during 2013–2015. We marked a total of 13,811 individuals during 3 years, estimated population sizes, simulated the dynamics of a harvested population over 50 years, and collated frog harvest and export statistics from the region and for Turkey as a whole. Our capture estimates indicated a population reduction of c. 20% per year, and our population modelling showed that, if overharvesting continues at current rates, the harvested populations will decline rapidly. Simulations with a model of harvested population dynamics resulted in a risk of extinction of > 90% within 50 years, with extinction likely in c. 2032. Our interviews with harvesters revealed their economic dependence on the frog harvest. However, our results also showed that reducing harvest rates would not only ensure the viability of these frog populations but would also provide a source of income that is sustainable in the long term. Our study provides insights into the position of Turkey in the ‘extinction domino’ line, in which harvest pressure shifts among countries as frog populations are depleted and harvest bans are effected. We recommend that harvesting of wild frogs should be banned during the mating season, hunting and exporting of frogs < 30 g should be banned, and harvesters should be trained on species knowledge and awareness of regulations.