Saturday, May 29, 2010

Frog Blog - African Clawed Frogs

An alert and concerned citizen sent the following message recently to the Oregon invasive species network:

“Hallmark stores is selling live frogs - advertised as African frogs. They are sold in very small aquarium type containers. I was shocked to see them selling live animals, but it concerned me that they may be importing a potential invasive species. I'm just wondering if the Department of Ag needs to be notified of this practice.”

Kudos to the sender for recognizing there could be a risk and alerting the authorities. Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife responded and here is their reply:

“OSP and I checked a Hallmark store about month ago and found that they are selling the dwarf clawed frog (Pipidae hymenochirus) in their frog kits which is a non-controlled species in Oregon and legal to sell. The prohibited species is the African clawed frog (Pipidae xenopus).” -Rick Boatner

I’m impressed that ODFW had been to the store first and already knew live frogs were on sale there. It is also commendable that they have reviewed frogs in the pet trade and sorted them into those that are a potential problem for Oregon and thus prohibited, and those that aren’t a threat and are legal to sell. Well done, ODFW!

The concerned citizen goes on to say,

“Even if the frog is 'legal,' I find it offensive that they are selling live animals and have written to their corporate office to state my objection.”

This is a moral question, separate from their potential to be invasive. Oregon Department of Agriculture staff members have debated a similar issue related to butterfly releases at weddings. Some new brides and grooms want to release commercially available butterflies during their ceremony. At first blush this seems like a charming idea, but what if the butterflies are not native to Oregon? Could they become invasive? We already have one invasive butterfly species here, the cabbage butterfly (a.k.a. imported cabbageworm) – a common white species that lays its eggs on the broccoli and cabbage plants in your garden.

Sometimes couples propose using tropical butterflies that wouldn’t survive here and don’t pose an invasive species threat. Is that OK? Is it right to release a wild animal into an inhospitable environment? To me it just doesn’t seem like an appropriate gesture, especially for a joyous event celebrating a new beginning.

Our current policy is to allow releases of widespread, native species only. One former ODA Entomologist collected local butterflies the day before his wedding and kept them overnight in a cooler. He told me they were a little slow to warm up when the cover was opened during the reception, but once they did, it was a pretty sight when they fluttered out.

I’ve also heard of people releasing white homing pigeons (a.k.a. “doves”) at weddings. Apparently they fly around and around above the guests to get oriented before heading home. I love that idea. No risk to the environment, no moral issues, and they can be recycled!

Dan Hilburn


  1. It's great that ODFW followed up on the clawed frog report - it's absolutely critical we have this kind of oversight to prevent the introduction and spread of species that could ultimately become invasive in Oregon.

  2. As I sift through some of articles concerning this matter I am horrified at what has happened to my few acres here in the Willamette Valley.
    I first learned of these frogs from an Aquarium shop in town.
    They were suppose to be "non-evasive" and stays relatively small from.
    To my shock these two frogs grew to bigger than my hand. I kept them in my tank until their passing. But that didn't stop the problem... they are here in my yard and have eaten my tree frogs to nothing... my property was a bonanza of breeding and now nothing....

  3. i'm guessing you mean non-invasive, not evasive...?