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  • 'Romeo,' the Sehuencas water frog, may be the last surviving member of his species. | Photo: Match

Published 14 February 2018

Ten years a bachelor, the childless amphibian has had to enlist human help to find his Juliet in a last-ditch effort, which, if it fails, could mean the end of his species.

As Valentine's Day descends once again, Global Wildlife Conservation has hooked up with dating website Match to raise money for lonesome Bolivian frog Romeo's last shot at romance.

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As part of the campaign to raise US$15,000 by the time Valentine's Day draws to a close, the team created a Match profile for Romeo, with a video in which he shows off a variety of swimming moves.

"Hi there. I'm Romeo, a Sehuencas water frog from Bolivia," says a sexy, Spanish-accented voice. "I'm a pretty simple guy. I tend to keep to myself and love spending nights at home. I also love eating; then again, who doesn't?"

Romeo's mobile-phone profile sports a big-eyed, pouting cartoon frog posing in a seductive manner, with the words: "Looking for my Juliet." His relationship status is listed as: "Never married." Has kids? "No."

"I bet you're wondering what is a frog like me doing in a place like this?" the announcement continues. "Well, I'm here to find my match, just like you. Except, my situation is a bit more... urgent."

Romeo is the last known frog of his kind and he has been fruitlessly calling for a mate from his tank at the Cochabamba Natural History Museum for years.

"We don't want him to lose hope," said Arturo Munoz, a conservation scientist. "We continue to remain hopeful that others are out there so we can establish a conservation breeding programme to save this species."

The funds will be used to scour Bolivian streams and rivers for signs of a female Sehuencas water frog, even in tadpole form.

If Romeo croaks, he could follow the route of "Lonesome George," a childless Galapagos tortoise who died in 2012, taking his entire subspecies with him. Sehuencas water frogs live for about 15 years.

When Romeo was found 10 years ago, said Munoz, "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.

"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."

Compared to other frogs in the genus, Munoz told AFP, Romeo has an especially musical mating call and has taught biologists much about his species. A shy creature, usually hiding under rocks in his enclosure, he emerges only at feeding time, with earthworms and snails among his favorite snacks.

If they can raise enough money for travel and equipment, the scientists hope to launch 10 expeditions to locations where the species was once common, as well as similar habitats, or places nobody has looked before.

They will also scour streams and rivers for DNA evidence that the Sehuencas water frog may still be there, even if living specimens cannot be tracked down.

If all else fails, Munoz does not rule out cloning as a means of preserving this amphibian species which, like many others, is threatened by climate change, habitat loss, alien predatory species introduced to rivers, and a fungus blamed for frog extinctions worldwide.

"So, if you believe in love and want to help an old frog out, please donate to my cause," Romeo's video concludes. "Adios, amigos."


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