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Why are Dordogne's noisy frogs embroiled in a bizarre legal battle?

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Why are Dordogne's noisy frogs embroiled in a bizarre legal battle?
Photo: AFP
14:03 CEST+02:00
An almighty row continues to rage in the Dordogne and at the centre of it is an army of noisy frogs.

The croaks of discord began when a couple in the southwest region of Dordogne were taken to their court by their neighbours who were furious at the racket being made by frogs in their garden pond.

Now they face hefty fines if they don't fill in their pond and remove the frogs, but if they do fill in the pond, they face even bigger fines and the possibility of being sent to jail (more on this later).

Why such a fuss about mere frogs?

The neighbours of Michel Pecheras and his wife Annie, who live near the village of Grignols, complained that the noise made by the 30 odd frogs in their pond was unbearable, in particular during the mating season that lasts from April to June.

Can frogs really make such a racket?

Apparently so. The neighbours had an expert come and measure the noise that they could hear from their open windows. The croaking reportedly reached 63 decibels, or the equivalent of the din made by a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner.

What happened when the case went to court?

The disgruntled neighbours won the case when it made it to court about five years ago, and the Pecheras were ordered to fill in the pond to put an end to the frolicking frogs. The ruling said that every day beyond the deadline for filling in the pond, they could be fined 150 euros.

They appealed the judgement but last December the ruling was upheld.

That seems pretty straightforward then - the couple merely have to fill in the pond and the matter is at an end?

No. These frogs are not just any old frogs - they are a protected species, and they are blithely sharing their lives in the pond of contention with several other protected species. So if the Pecheras do fill in the pond, they would be breaking environment laws and face two years in prison and a €150,000 fine.

Is there any way out of this kafkaesque legal situation?

The Pecheras plan to keep fighting. With the help of local environmental groups they  have contacted ecology minister Nicolas Hulot to try and get him to intervene, and are also looking at other legal steps they might take.

And they have launched a petition on change.org, and it looks like their plight has sparked a lot of sympathy - nearly 140,000 have signed it.

About 150 people turned up at the Pecheras' garden last Saturday in a show of support for the beleaguered couple.

 
Video: France Bleu Perigourd/Facebook
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