The Frog Romeo
This handsome fella is Romeo:
His bio features the following info:
Height: 0′ 2″
Status: Never married
Want children?: Definitely
Smoker?: No way
For fun I like to: Leg days at the gym
If you’re part of the 30% of the American population which claims to have partaken in online dating apps, you might peg the preceding data as a profile from match.com.
And you’d be correct.
Romeo is a Sehuencas water frog that lives at the K’ayra Center at the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Potosi, Bolivia. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative created a profile on the dating site, in hopes of finding Romeo a mate. Normally, these types of stunts are feel-good stabs at raising money for good causes.
In Romeo’s case, that’s only half true.
The user-provided information in the profile delivers more information:
“Well, hi there. I’m Romeo. I’m a Sehuencas (pronounced “say-when-cuss”) Water Frog and, not to start this off super heavy or anything, but I’m literally the last of my species. I know – intense stuff. But that’s why I’m on here – in hopes of finding my perfect match so we can save our own kind (no pressure ;)).
I’m a pretty simple guy. I tend to keep to myself and have the best nights just chilling at home, maybe binge-watching the waters around me. I do love food, though, and will throw a pair of pants on and get out of the house if there’s a worm or snail to be eaten!
As for who I’m looking for, I’m not picky. I just need another Sehuencas like myself. Otherwise, my entire existence as we know it is over (no big deal). So, if you’re willing to help an old Romeo find his one and only Juliet, donate to my cause so we can get out there and start the search for my one, true match!”
Researchers worried that Romeo might be what they term an “endling.” The cute-sounding term actually means the last surviving member of a species. Telmatobius yuracare is, without exaggeration, not in good shape. Conservationists located Romeo in the cloud forests of Bolivia in 2009. After that point, the search for other Sehuencas water frogs went dry. For nine years, Romeo belted mating calls at the sanctuary to the void.
The species can live to be about 15 years old, if all goes well. In February 2018, Romeo was pushing 10. If the water frogs were going to receive a miracle, it needed to happen soon.
So, the promotional profile went online. The point, of course, wasn’t to find a female water frog that might flick her tongue right when she saw Romeo’s pics but to raise money. The groups hoped they could send professional scientists into the field in the hope of finding other frogs.
The Sehuencas water frog once abundantly populated the forests of Bolivia. Like many frog species across the world, it’s not a great time to be alive. The destruction of forests is an ongoing threat; pollution and changing climate chip away at viability; and to top it all off, a fungus called Chytrid is attacking eggs across the globe. When Romeo was located, researchers hoped he might be a future mate for others, in case the species went extinct in the wild. Instead of an insurance policy, Romeo was suddenly a potential endling.
These stories don’t often have happy endings.
But, the Match profile raised $25,000. With the funding, in 2019, herpetologist Teresa Camacho Badani ventured into the Bolivian forests with a team of scientists. After many empty searches, they neared a waterfall. Badani spied spied a flash. She said, “When I pulled it out, I saw an orange belly and suddenly realized I had in my hands the long-awaited Sehuencas water frog.” Eventually, they located five individuals!
They discovered three males and two females, meaning the species has a chance. The quintet needed to be treated for chytridiomycosis, the aforementioned fungal frog scourge. After getting healthy, researchers introduced Romeo to one of the females, hoping for a successful pairing. Of course, they dubbed her Juliet.
Despite this initial victory, the future of the water frogs is nowhere near a sure thing. Six individuals are certainly not a guarantee for survival. Breeding in captivity is notoriously tricky; reaching the point of being able to repopulate into the wild is perhaps unrealistic.
The latest information from researchers states that Romeo and Juliet get along swimmingly and they have attempted to “get to know each other better.”
In this harsh world, it’s hard to remain optimistic. After all, the original Romeo and Juliet didn’t exactly combine for All’s Well That Ends Well. Here’s hoping this version of star-crossed lovers beats the odds and becomes frog-blessed lovers.
Further Reading and Exploration
Sehuencas Water Frog – IUCN Red List
Bolivia’s lonely frog: Scientists race to find mate for Romeo – BBC
Scientists Make Match.com Profile for Bolivia’s Loneliest Frog – Smithsonian Magazine
Lonely No More: Romeo The Sehuencas Water Frog Finds Love – re:wild
World’s ‘loneliest’ frog gets a date – BBC
A Year Later, Match.com Profile Pays Off for World’s Loneliest Frog – Smithsonian Magazine
Together at Last: Frogs Romeo and Juliet Get their Long-awaited First Date – re:wild
Romeo & Juliet: Love at First Swim – re:wild