Frog eating stunt on Facebook puts Goa teenager in a soup
What psychologists call the Online Disinhibition Effect—the loss of circumspection on the internet that paedophiles count on and social networking sites traffic in—can disinhibit someone straight into jail. Or get their home raided by forest officials, as was the case with Yoko Gomes, a teenager residing in the north Goa town of Ribandar.
On 4 June, Gomes greeted the advent of the monsoons with a declaration on Facebook: He was going frog-hunting. He did, and soon returned with the spoils: two plump vivid green Indian bullfrogs (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus). This is India’s largest frog, and a species protected by Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, and also finds mention in the IUCN Red List. Moreover, its consumption was banned by the Centre in 1985. Gomes skinned them, lopped their heads off, and then uploaded photos chronicling the process on a Facebook album entitled ‘rains are here…..!!!!!!’ ‘I’m eatin dem alone,’ he wrote, and when a friend asked to partake in the batrarchian feast, he shot back: ‘u din cme wit me 2 catch dem, nw sit nwatch me lick my fingers…..hahahahahaha LOL.’
Clinton Vaz did watch, and he did not LOL. As a coordinator with the NGO Wild Goa Network, he’s been engaged in the Save the Frog campaign for the past six years. He knew the monsoon, the bullfrogs’ breeding season, was also prime hunting season. He took a screen capture of the page, downloaded the album, and sent it along with a complaint to the forest department. At Gomes’ house, they found incriminating “traces” of cooked frog meat. Gomes was in Mumbai, but his parents confessed to the crime on his behalf. The boy is likely to get off with a warning, though Vaz hopes he’ll at least be fined, “to make an example of him”.
Over the past month, Vaz and his network of volunteers have saved about 150 frogs. But not all the attention he gets has been positive. “A week ago, past midnight, I heard a thud outside my house,” says Vaz, “I opened the door and found a bag of about 20 headless bullfrogs.” Vaz realises that he has attracted a great deal of resentment from those who relish frog meat. “Frogs were previously consumed for protein in pre-developed Goa,” says Vaz, “but now it’s a trendy thing to do in the monsoon”.