French running scared of marauding giant frogs

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Since the "Rosbifs" (as the French call the British) are having trouble with roast beef, it seems only fair that France should be overrun by frogs. No ordinary frogs. A plague of giant Californian bullfrogs is threatening to disrupt the ecology of south-western France.

Since the "Rosbifs" (as the French call the British) are having trouble with roast beef, it seems only fair that France should be overrun by frogs. No ordinary frogs. A plague of giant Californian bullfrogs is threatening to disrupt the ecology of south-western France.

The aggressive and voracious bullfrog ( Rana catesbeiana), introduced illegally 20 years ago, can weigh four pounds. It consumes frogs, fish, lizards and even small birds. Since the frogs were released, as a joke, on a private pond near Libourne in the early Eighties, they have colonised ponds, lakes, marshes and gravel pits all over the Gironde.

"This is a real threat to the freshwater environment," said Christophe Coïc of the environmental group Cistude. "We must do something before it is too late. The survival of several indigenous species depends upon it." Mr Coïc's association is organising a campaign of eradication. But destroying the frogs is not easy. The Gironde fisheries protection association used electric poles to attack a pond full of bullfrogs two years ago. The frogs fought back. "We battled with them for two hours and killed just one so we gave up," Michel Vigneaud told the newspaper Libération.

He believes France should accept the inevitable: that the Californian bullfrog, an illegal immigrant, has become a French native.

Mr Coïc is urging members of his group and sympathisers to kill the frogs at the tadpole stage. But they are urged to take care. Volunteers exterminated all the tadpoles in one pond, then found they belonged to a rare species of indigenous frog.

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