Every Sunday morning the length of Jalan Gaya (Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo) is closed off to traffic to make way for the Sunday Market. I arrived at 8.30 in the morning (early for me on a Sunday) and the market was already in full throng. Everything you could possibly want (and many things you don’t) was available. Dried sea cucumbers, rare live geckos, batik sarongs, fake football jerseys, brass frogs, mealworm larvae, laser pointers, pesticides so potent they claim to kill everything from rats through lizards to cockroaches, skin lightener cream, exotic fruits and flowers, souvenirs, viagra coffee (Tong Kat Ali), cakes and herbs! The smells and the buzz of people, made this an exciting place to be.
On my second time around I visited what appeared to be a ‘pet’ store, although it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a pet store and a delicatessen apart from the price of the wares (in pet stores dogs are usually more expensive!). This particular one had “American Frogs” for sale at RM10 each (roughly US$2.70) and they were clearly the American Bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana, and judging from the small size of them they had been produced in Borneo. These frogs are renowned for spreading chytrid disease and are voracious predators on almost any amphibian (or vertebrate) smaller than themselves.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) released a new report in late 2014 entitled “Implications of Importing American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus = Rana catesbeiana) into California” and they clearly do not want them there. There doesn’t appear to be any legislation in Borneo prohibiting their sale or release into the environment (and if there was it would be difficult to enforce), so could this be yet another environmental disaster waiting to happen?
There are a couple of hundred species of amphibians in Borneo, many of which are endemic to this third largest island in the world, where you might presume they were safe.
By Phil Bishop
Chief Scientist, Amphibian Survival Alliance