We thought Lonesome George was a sad case. But now, there's Romeo.
Romeo is a Sehuencas water frog, and he is quite possibly the only member of his species alive today. Possibly.
Researchers haven't given up hope and are rallying together to help find Romeo a lover.
Back in February in an odd-yet-perfect collaboration, Global Wildlife Conservation, Match — the world’s largest relationship company — and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative teamed up on a fundraising campaign to find a mate for Romeo. The goal was to get researchers in the field to find out if any other Sehuencas water frogs exist, and if any do, to find a potential mate.
Romeo has his own dating profile on Match, and the campaign aimed to raise $15,000 by Valentines Day, money that would be used to fund 10 field expeditions by the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative. From basic field equipment to transportation and guides, the funds will be essential in the search for individuals and to keep this species in existence.
"When biologists collected Romeo 10 years ago, we knew the Sehuencas water frog, like other amphibians in Bolivia, was in trouble, but we had no idea we wouldn’t be able to find a single other individual in all this time," said Arturo Muñoz, founder of the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative and GWC associate conservation scientist. "Romeo started to call for a mate about a year after he was brought into captivity, but those calls have slowed in the last few years. We don’t want him to lose hope, and we continue to remain hopeful that others are out there so we can establish a conservation breeding program to save this species."
Hope is on the horizon
Fast forward several months after successfully raising the funds, teams from Global Wildlife Conservation and the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny are set to embark on several field expeditions to find Romeo his Juliet.
"This is a unique opportunity to prevent the extinction of a species that has become a playful flagship for conservation," the museum’s chief of herpetology, Teresa Camacho Badani, told Earth Touch News Network.
Several teams comprised of biologists and veterinarians will set off on two trips per month from December until February. This time period is Bolivia's rainy season, and the teams hope they will have better odds of finding other Sehuencas water frogs.
You don't have to kiss this frog to help him
The species has faced a severe decline through combination of climate change, habitat loss, pollution, the deadly chytrid amphibian pathogen, and the introduction of trout. And now may come the final blow.
According to GWC, "The Bolivian government plans to build a dam in a forested area where the Sehuencas water frog was once so common it became its namesake: Sehuencas. In addition to looking for Sehuencas water frog adults and tadpoles, the expedition team will test the water of streams and rivers at key sites for traces of DNA from the frogs, confirming that they are there to be found even if team members don’t see them immediately."
Finding and conserving any Sehuencas water frog individuals is critical before the dam goes up. And who wouldn't want to help preserve a species with such a sweet face?
Since 2010, Romeo has lived in an aquarium in a shipping-container-turned-amphibian-ark in the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Cochabamba City, Bolivia. It's been a lonely life. So if you'd like to help out Romeo and the entire species, visit Romeo's profile and make a donation toward the scientific expeditions.
The Sehuencas water frog isn't the only amphibian species in need of protection. As a highly sensitive indicator species, frogs around the world have faced severe declines for the same reasons: pollution, habitat loss, and the chytrid amphibian pathogen. The loss of frogs indicates the decline of an ecosystem.
If you'd like to learn more about the importance of frogs and help preserve all amphibians, explore information and conservation resources at Global Wildlife Conservation and Amphibian Survival Alliance.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in February 2018.