It has been more than 10 years since Romeo the Sehuencas water frog, the sole Sehuencas water frog known to exist, has found love, a problem that has huge implications for his species. This Valentine’s Day, Global Wildlife Conservation (an Amphibian Survival Alliance Partner), Match, the world’s largest relationship company, and the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative have teamed up on a fundraising campaign to find a mate for Romeo.
“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.”
Match and GWC together aim to raise $15,000 by Valentine’s Day to support the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative’s 10 expeditions to locations where the species was once common, and also to places with similar habitat where biologists have not had a chance to look before. The funding will support frog-collecting equipment, headlamps, transportation and guides. Match will match each donation from Feb. 9 until Valentine’s Day. To give Romeo a platform and bring his story to life, Match has created a profile for the amphibious bachelor where singles can learn more about him and donate to his cause.
“For over 20 years Match has helped singles successfully find meaningful relationships and we believe there is truly someone for everyone,” said Hesam Hosseini, CEO of Match. “Finding a match for Romeo is a new challenge for us, but in the interest of saving an entire species, we gladly and confidently accept.”
Time is running out to find Romeo a mate. 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.
“Like the black-footed ferret, golden lion tamarin and California condor, we aim to add the Sehuencas water frog to the list of incredible species that have made a comeback thanks to heroic conservation breeding efforts,” said Robin Moore, amphibian conservation biologist and GWC communications director. “Romeo may be the world’s loneliest frog now, but his fate stands to change dramatically with the help of Match and generous singles and couples who decide to show their love for Romeo and our wild world this Valentine’s Day.”
The Sehuencas water frog (Telmatobius yuracare) is a fully aquatic frog that was once abundant as tadpoles on the bottom of small streams or rivers, and in ponds in montane could forest of Bolivia. A combination of climate change, habitat loss, pollution, the deadly chytrid amphibian pathogen, and the introduction of trout has resulted in precipitous declines in Telmatobius species in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
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. Muñoz describes Romeo as a shy frog who likes to stay under rocks and peek out only when keepers are serving him his favorite meals of earthworms, isopods and snails. Compared to other frogs in his genus, Muñoz said, Romeo has an especially musical breeding call and has helped teach biologists about the natural history of Sehuencas water frogs over the years.
To learn more about Romeo and donate to his cause, visit http://www.match.com/Romeo
Photo: Romeo photo by Dirk Ercken and Arturo Muñoz