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Goa’s ‘jumping chicken’ frogmarched from marsh to table (Feature)

Panaji, July 2 (Calcutta Tube) It’s a cloudy night. The only sounds are that of rubber slippers sloshing in the ankle-deep marsh in one of the many nondescript paddy fields somewhere in north Goa and the noisy symphony of croaking bull frogs seeking mates.

Armed with a powerful flashlight, a gunny sack and a knife tucked in the waist, the team of hunters move in the direction where the croaking sounds seem to come from.

Frog meat, locally known as ‘jumping chicken’, is what these hunting teams are after.

Scenes like these are common in the rural areas of Goa, especially on nights when the monsoon showers take a breather after a few days of sustained downpour. Although hunting of frogs is banned in Goa, assorted groups of twos and threes armed with rudimentary tools like powerful flashlights and gunny sacks can be seen throughout the countryside looking for frogs, whose meat is sought after in rural taverns as a seasonal delicacy.

‘We locate the frog by following its croak. Then we use a flashlight and focus the beam on its eyes, which stuns and immobilises them. With the beam still focussed on its eyes we run towards the prey and using the thumb and the forefinger, we literally pluck it up from the ground and dump it in the sack, where it stays until it’s time to dress the animal,’ an accountant who doubles up as a frog-hunter during monsoon nights told IANS.

‘On a good day we pick up a couple of dozen good-sized frogs, which fetch us about a thousand bucks,’ he said, adding that some taverns or small hotels which are notorious for selling game meat, are only too willing to buy ‘jumping chicken’ by the sack-loads.

Once on the chopping board in the kitchen, the frogs are skinned and only its fleshy legs retained and served either marinated and shallow fried or curried in thick, spicy broth, which can be an ideal compliment to cold, frosted beer and soft, warm bread.

The Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon Bullfrog, both regularly slaughtered for meat in Goa, are already listed on the Schedule-I List of threatened species recognised by the government of India as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is recognised internationally.

Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, any individual or restaurant detected to be catching, killing, selling, serving or even eating frog meat would attract stringent punishment with a fine of Rs 25,000 and/or imprisonment up to three years.

So how does the state government keep tabs on the slaughter and sale of ‘jumping chicken’ in Goa?

‘We have launched a Save Frogs campaign because of the importance of the frog to the ecosystem. Every year we step up protection to monitor activity outside notified forest areas, especially agricultural fields where frogs are abundant. Within forest areas checks are regularly done,’ said deputy conservator of forests Debendra Dalai.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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