Romer's Tree Frog is an endangered species, and one of the most well-known species unique to Hong Kong. The smallest frog species in Hong Kong, a Romer’s Tree Frog is only about the size of a penny. Coupled with the ability to camouflage, they are inconspicuous in the wild.
The name Romer was taken from renowned herpetologist John Romer. Romer came to Hong Kong in 1947, where he stayed and worked as a pest control officer for more than 20 years. Known as the ‘Hong Kong Snakeman’, he was not only a local authority in herpetology but was also known to be the first person to study bats in Hong Kong. In 1952, Romer discovered a new species of frogs in a cave on Lamma Island and named the species after himself: Romer’s Tree Frog. The cave had collapsed the following year, leading scientists to believe the tree frog had become extinct.
In 1975, Romer met Bogadek and encouraged Bogadek to research herpetology. When Romer passed away in 1982, Bogadek continued his search for Romer's Tree Frog, which had been on Romer’s mind for a long time. He finally rediscovered them in 1984 with his student Stephen Karsen on Lamma Island.
In the 1990s, the construction of the Chek Lap Kok Airport had threatened the habitat of Romer's Tree Frogs. After many difficult tries, another student of Bogadek, Michael Lau, who was working on a research at HKU on Romer’s Tree Frogs, successfully reintroduced and relocated hundreds of Romer’s Tree Frogs from Lamma Island to other locations in Hong Kong to conserve the species. Today, Michael is also known as “Dr. Frog'' and continues to contribute to ecological conservation.
Romer's Tree Frog and its Three Generations of Guardians
Romer was the former honorary curator of the Mammal Pavilion at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Park, and was the founder of the Hong Kong Natural History Society. Among his publications, Aid to the Recognition of Venomous Snakes in Hong Kong, published by the Hong Kong Urban Services Department in 1959, was the first book about venomous snakes in Hong Kong. The book provides both ecological information on venomous snakes and practical suggestions on what to do if encountered in the wild.
The reintroduction of Romer’s Tree Frog to Hong Kong’s ecology was not an easy task. While release sites were carefully identified, not all of them were successful in reintroducing Romer’s Tree Frog. In some sites, the species can no longer be seen due to the changes in habitat conditions caused by natural and man-made influences.
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Map of Romer’s Tree Frog Current Distribution
Romer’s Tree Frog (Liuixalus romeri)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species: Endangered Nocturnal species, only 1.5 to 2.5cm in size with a natural camouflage. Scientists often rely on hearing while searching for them.
Romer's Tree Frog
Some of Romer’s publications