Caleb Ofori-Boateng & The Togo Slippery Frog
Caleb Ofori-Boateng is a uniquely inspiring person. He is not just inspiring in the field of conservation, he is someone that everybody can look to for inspiration in making the world a better place.
Caleb will go down in history as the first formally-trained herpetologist in Ghana. He created the first herpetologist organisation in Ghana, the aptly named Herp-Ghana. He has rediscovered species back from extinction and has crafted an outreach method called ‘conservation evangelicism’, utilising the role religion plays in communities to raise awareness for the natural world.
Born in Ghana, Caleb, was raised in a national park, with his father working as a park official. This experience helped to nurture a love for the rich wildlife of his native home. When he was just 7 years-old, however, his father passed away. Caleb has described this unfortunate event as a formative experience in his life. Reflecting on his father’s passing, he relates this sense of loss to that he feels when a particular species is lost to extinction. This feeling of irreversible pain is what motivates his work and is indicative of just how close he holds the natural world to his heart.
Caleb’s success as an amphibian conservationist came at a very early stage. In fact, in 2005, Caleb was a part of the expedition that rediscovered the Togo Slippery Frog after it had been thought extinct for 40 years. This career-defining breakthrough came before he had even begun to study Biology in 2006. At University Caleb decided to focus on amphibians and compiled his own list of the various amphibians native to Ghana.
In particular, the Togo Slippery Frog which he had helped to rediscover became a central focus of his efforts. Only 3-inches in length and a very unremarkable brown, the Togo Slippery Frog may at first appear not all that significant. However, as a species, the Togo Slippery Frog ranks as one of the most genetically distinct and critically endangered animals on Earth. It is as different to other amphibians as humans are to pigs. Ensuring its survival, therefore, was of paramount importance to protect the ecosystem’s rich biodiversity.
The frog is only found along the border between Ghana and Togo in a region called the Togo-Volta Highlands. The species needs clean fresh water, and is therefore usually found near fast-bodies of water such as streams in the rich rainforests of the region. Disturbances to this water-supply, therefore, can prove fatal for the creature. Deforestation and agriculture in particular has played a significant role in pushing this species to the very brink of extinction.
Caleb’s efforts to save the Togo Slippery Frog include trying to educate a population who customarily eat frogs on the importance of trying to preserve these endangered species. This involves using the local network of churches as a base for his education, effectively engaging in the communities he works in. By leveraging people’s trust in churches and religious officials, Caleb can appeal to the local people in a way that allows him to make genuine connections.
His efforts have led to the successful conservation of around 60 km² of rainforest in the Togo-Volta Highlands. Furthermore, he has managed to train local conservation professionals to assist in the task of monitoring species population and implementing his programme of protection.
Caleb serves as an inspiration for all those who will come after him in Ghana and indeed throughout the world. He is an example that a passion for animals and conservation can guide individuals to accomplish extraordinary things, even if you have to be the first to forge a path. Not only that, with support and collaboration, Caleb’s insights into how to engage local communities could help to reach potentially hundreds of millions people world-wide in the cause of protecting our planet’s delicate ecosystems.
It is for these reasons and more that we here at Wildscreen Festival would like to recognise the incredible work of Caleb Ofori-Boateng.
Written by Liam Curran.