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.

Photo by Robin Moore, Global Wildlife Conservation

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.

Valentine's Day Cards 2019, illustrations by Eric Losh

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 story of Sehuencas Water Frogs Romeo and Juliet, and the media attention that surrounded their story

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.

Juliet photos taken by Robin Moore in 2018 when she was first discovered

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.

Juliet photos taken by Robin Moore in 2018 when she was first discovered

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Wild Facts

  • For 10 years, Romeo was the last-known Sehuencas Water Frog.

  • Romeo made an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert...twice!

  • The Sehuencas Water Frog is one of 63 known species of water frogs, unique aquatic and semi-aquatic frogs.

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Solutions

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the interrelated crises of wildlife extinctions, climate change and pandemics. Re:wild works with local and Indigenous communities, conservation partners, governments and others to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Our primary Sehuencas Water Frog conservation approach includes:

conservation breeding, translocations and reintroductions

Creating insurance populations to prevent extinction and active management of wildlife populations to help restore them to healthy and self-sustainable numbers across their natural range.

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# of individuals in captive breeding program(s):

About 6

IUCN Red List Status

Critically Endangered

Population trend:

Decreasing

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