The world’s loneliest frog is finally close to relationship status.
Scientists have found a potential mate for Romeo, the Sehuencas water frog who’s been alone and single for the last 10 years. Housed in a museum in Bolivia, Romeo was considered possibly the last living water frog of his kind.
The big-eyed amphibian won hearts worldwide last year after conservationists created a playful Match.com profile for him.
Now Romeo and his love interest – who scientists have named Juliet, of course – will be set up on a blind date this Valentine’s Day as part of an effort to save their species.
No pressure, kids.
It all started when Bolivia’s Alcide d’Orbigny Natural History Museum partnered with Global Wildlife Conservation to raise money to search for a mate for Romeo.
Zoologist Teresa Camacho then led a frog-search expedition last month through Bolivia’s cloud forest. She and her team would stick their hands in creeks and feel for water frogs, since the creatures can’t easily be spotted where they live — underwater.
“We were tired, wet and disappointed,” says Camacho, who believes that climate change and contaminated waterways have driven the Sehuencas water frog close to extinction. “Then I said, ‘Let’s do one more creek.’”
That’s when she noticed a frog hop in the water. It wasn’t the species she was looking for, but it led her to a tiny waterfall … and there it was — an orange-bellied water frog under the shower. The team jumped for joy, but it wasn’t their Juliet.
It was a male frog.
Still, “I noticed the habitat was in good condition, so we had hope,” says Camacho.
They went back the next day and found four more frogs — two female and two male.
Juliet is at the perfect age for reproduction. The others are younger and not ready yet.
She’s also … pretty cute.
“She has beautiful eyes,” Alcide d’Orbigny Museum Director Ricardo Céspedes says about Juliet, who is quarantined until lab tests come back. Scientists need to make sure she’s free of the dangerous chytrid fungus, known to have killed entire frog populations, before she meets Romeo.
But Romeo and Juliet may not even be compatible.
“We’re hoping opposites attract,” says Céspedes, noting Romeo is shy, doesn’t swim much and is “a little overweight.”
Juliet, on the other hand, is extroverted and full of energy – she’s already tried to escape her tank.
“We’ll have to provide some sort of current to get him a little more exercise,” Camacho says.
The museum, which also helped preserve the rare Titicaca water frog, is relying on the newly found younger frogs should the Romeo-Juliet encounter not go as planned. As another fallback, scientists also can try in vitro fertilization.