Unlike other poachers, frog hunters in Manipur venture out in groups in auto-rickshaws looking for good sites. They look for paddy fields in the rainy season.
They modify torch lights using bamboo tubes. When they light their torches on the water, the eyes of frogs glitter and then they chase and catch them.
A hunter can harvest about 50 frogs a night and three to four groups can harvest about 40,000 frogs a month if they are lucky enough. They then hand over their catch to a collector who buys them at Rs. 5 to Rs. 7 per frog depending on the size of their catch.
The collectors then take it to the master collector who buys it at higher rates and sends them to the markets in Manipur's hill districts and neighbouring states where frogs are a delicacy.
Hunting of frogs is a serious threat to the ecosystem. Feeding on pests, frogs are natural pest controller. HT photo
As the frog poachers hunt at night and ferry their catch through inter-state transport services early in the morning their business is never out in the public.
This is how the frog hunters work in Manipur every day and night.
This came to light following a disclosure by a group of frog traders who were arrested in the state during a raid conducted by Peoples For Animal (PFA) Thoubal accompanied by a police team from Imphal West police station.
The raid was conducted on a few locations along Dingku road in Imphal around 4am on Tuesday, according to a press release issued by PFA Thoubal.
"We succeeded in apprehending four female hunters who were dealing in frogs," said the PFA.
"A total of 523 frogs of Indian Bullfrog species which are listed in schedule 4 of Wildlife Protection Act, including some dead, were rescued from them."
The arrested frog hunters and traders have been identified as Ningombam Dashu of Khongjom Tekcham, Naorem Memcha of KhongjomTekcham, Thabitha Ningshen of Kamjong and Jenni Shimrah of Sangshak both presently staying at Khuman Lampak in Imphal.
They have been compounded a sum of Rs. 2000 each and the frogs were released back to the paddy fields with the permission of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Central Division on Tuesday.
The step was taken in view of the mushrooming of frog trading as thousands of them are being caught and eaten while thousands others are feared to be exported to neighboring states.
Manipur houses number of exotic flora and fauna but instead of conserving them, people always look for easy money by exploiting them.
Hunting of frogs is a serious threat to the ecosystem. Feeding on pests, frogs are natural pest controller and many wild birds and animals eat them too. Their over-hunting could thus lead to a imbalance in the nature.
"This is one of reason why the hill districts of Manipur where frogs are caught and eaten experienced more vector born disease cases as these were spread by fly, mosquito and other insects," the PFA said.