According to SF Weekly, there are as many as 10,000 invasive African clawed frogs in the lily pond across from the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Nobody knows for sure how they got there, but they have already gobbled up all the other species of frogs and fish that lived there so, naturally, now they’re eating each other.
These frogs literally cannot stop eating. They will eat anything that crosses their path, even if it’s its own brother. Sounds like a scary movie, right? But the reality is actually pretty frightening.
California could really face a crisis a la “Attack of the Frogs” as they ravage the pond’s ecosystem and threaten to do the same to the rest of California. If kids were to take home some of these cute lil’ froggies as pets, and they got out into the wild, the frogs could wipe out tons of native species in other places like the Sacramento Delta.
However, this is not new news. The city has been ruminating over this for a decade already. Efforts to get rid of the frogs have been thwarted by what appears to be bureaucracy and lack of funding. In 2003, they were going to drain the pond and let the frogs die but canceled the plan at the last minute.
Miles Young, a retired patrol lieutenant with Fish and Game, was in charge of the frog eradication project. He claimed the decision to cancel it was purely political, out of fear of failure and a PR backlash from frog sympathizers.
Instead of killing all the frogs at once, city and state officials say they coordinate to skim off some of the frogs each year, leaving few enough of them that park visitors are less likely to take them home.
Young says “They could have done this for a fifth of the cost they do every year they do seining the frogs,” he says. “I watched as they wade around in the muck, and frogs were zipping ahead of them. It’s ridiculous. We had a pump that would have drained the pond in three and a half hours.”
Eric Larson, the supervising biologist and deputy regional manager for the state Department of Fish and Game’s central coast region, coordinates the frog management program. SFWeekly was forwarded an e-mail of his to Oakland animal activist, Eric Mills, in which he stated: “Any eradication effort at the park will require careful planning and would be subject to environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act. … The Department remains committed to assisting the City in this undertaking. However, sufficient funds to develop and implement an eradication program must first be secured.”
When it comes to invasive species, the question always remains. Why did we humans muddle with the frogs in the first place? San Francisco is not alone, these invasive pests are now found in freshwater around the world.
Of course, the exact answer eludes us but a weird piece of history provides part of the puzzle. Thousands of African Clawed Frogs were originally exported from Africa in the 1930s for use in human pregnancy tests. If a woman thought she was pregnant, her urine would be injected into a female frog. If the frog ovulated – the lady was pregnant.
Fast forward to 2010. We have to deal with these slimy little carnivores or else they’ll eat everything. Mills said he could easily raise a team of volunteers to get rid of the frogs, but he said he’s unable to get permission from park officials.
Young is clearly frustrated and reportedly writing a book about the whole mess. He says “Fish and Game says, ‘We’re working on it.’ Bullshit. They totally screwed this one up.”