sehuencas water frog
Romeo & Juliet: Love at First Swim
Perhaps the only frog more famous than Romeo the Sehuencas Water Frog is Kermit, and both have had their romantic escapades strewn across the headlines. Though for different reasons—a stubborn pig versus a 10-year streak of bachelorhood.
In 2009, a team of biologists in Bolivia brought in from the field a single male Sehuencas Water Frog—Romeo. They had hoped to create a conservation breeding program for the traditionally common species ahead of population declines they were seeing with other frogs. Ten years later and Re:wild partner Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny’s Centro K’ayra and other researchers had not been able to locate a single other individual Sehuencas Water Frog—male or female. At the same time, Romeo had given up hope, and stopped calling for a mate.
Finding a #Match4Romeo
So we did for Romeo what most singles do today in search of a partner: we set up a dating profile! Thanks to Match, the world’s largest relationship company, Romeo had a dating profile complete with a video showing all his best sides (of course!), posted just in time for Valentine’s Day in 2018.
As a result, Re:wild and the museum were able to raise $25,000 to send expeditions into the remote streams of Bolivia in search, again, for individual Sehuencas Water Frogs. And this time? Success! The team rediscovered the Sehuencas Water Frog in the wild, including a Juliet for Romeo, and four other frogs. Juliet now lives with Romeo in an aquarium at the museum’s K’ayra Center.
Now the museum has a conservation breeding program for the Sehuencas Water Frog, and if the celebrity couple or another pair get in the amorous mood, they will help save their species from extinction. Someday we hope to be able to return Romeo and Juliet’s progeny to the wild—giving them a much happier ending than their Shakespearean namesake.
The Last of His Kind
The Sehuencas Water Frog is previously known from fewer than 10 locations, but was once found in abundance in small streams of the montane cloud forest in Bolivia that the species calls home. Researchers suspect that the combination of the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus, the introduction of trout, habitat loss, pollution and climate change have resulted in sharp declines in multiple water frog species across Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, and are suspected causes of the decline of the Sehuencas Water Frog.
Saving Sehuencas Water Frogs from the Brink
Ultimately the Sehuencas Water Frog project aims to save this species from extinction through a conservation breeding program and habitat protection. If natural breeding fails, the project may have to turn to emerging artificial reproductive technologies.
The project’s goals include:
Creating a conservation breeding program with the Sehuencas Water Frogs currently living at the Alcide d’Orbigny Natural History Museum in Bolivia.
Developing a biobank of sperm and other tissues from the individuals in captivity to be used in in-vitro fertilization in the case that natural breeding is not successful.
Understanding the specific drivers of the decline in aquatic frog species throughout the region to better protect those species that are left in the wild.