Voices on the Ground: A Pioneer for Amphibians in Africa

Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng, founder of HERP Conservation Ghana
Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng, founder of HERP Conservation Ghana

Caleb Ofori-Boateng, Ph.D. of HERP Conservation Ghana

Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng grew up in national parks in Ghana with baboons and elephants. His father was passionate about conservation and worked as a ranger and then assistant park manager at Mole National Park. Caleb particularly remembers his father taking him and his brother and sisters out in an old Jeep at dusk to see elephants, buffalo, and large herds of antelope known as “kob.”

Caleb naturally credits these early experiences for his deep devotion to wild species. But instead of becoming singularly focused on the large mammals that fascinated him as a child, he developed a special affinity for frogs.

“When so many people around me were clamoring for the protection of other, more ‘spectacular’ species, I noticed that nobody seemed to care about frogs,” Caleb said. “Protecting tiny frogs is as important as protecting a tiger or an elephant.”

Caleb was the first formally trained herpetologist in Ghana, where there are still very few. He founded Herp Conservation Ghana (Herp-Ghana), a non-profit organization dedicated to amphibian and reptile conservation.

On his first trip out into the field early in his career, Caleb assisted a senior herpetologist to conduct amphibian surveys in Southern Ghana and western Togo. They searched for frogs after dark, navigating the often-steep terrain by head lamp. On one of these nightly jaunts, they heard the whistle of a frog that puzzled them. It turned out to be a species entirely new to science, soon to be announced by the scientific community.

Rainforest Trust supported Herp-Ghana in 2017 to create the original 847-acre Onepone Endangered Species Refuge to protect the elusive Togo Slippery Frog and other threatened species from logging, spreading agriculture and settlements, and hunting.

The Togo Slippery Frog or "The Whistling Frog", courtesy of HERP Conservation-Ghana
The Togo Slippery Frog or The Whistling Frog, courtesy of HERP Conservation-Ghana

In 2020, with additional funding support from Rainforest Trust, Herp-Ghana worked with local communities to expand the refuge by 1,285 acres to safeguard additional populations of the frog along with threatened plants, pangolins, vultures, butterflies and hundreds of other species.

There is very strong community support for the project, mostly thanks to Caleb’s irresistible passion for the work and his love for the local Avatime people, whose ancestry dates back thousands of years in the region.

“I learned from my father’s down-to-earth way with people that building trust within the community is essential to conservation,” Caleb says.

Rainforest Trust also supported Caleb and his team in developing their ecotourism plan, which is thriving, thanks to a new canopy walkway that opened in 2022 as part of a multiphased ecotourism program. The walkway passes under a waterfall at one point, emphasizing the importance of water conservation for people and wildlife in Ghana. The program has received unprecedented national attention, and visitors now number in the thousands each year. This success has been transformational for the local economy.

A Replicable Model of Conservation

Herp-Ghana’s program at Onepone has immense value to science. Caleb and his team receive many requests from other communities across Africa and the world to learn how they can protect their forests.

“I deeply believe people and wildlife can coexist and thrive. We have proven that it is possible, it’s not just an abstract idea.”

And how are the frogs doing?

“Frog populations are growing!” Caleb reports. “I am hoping they will be downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered in the next assessment. Their populations have grown three or four times over our original counts.”

Watch “No Small Measures” mini documentary

This is what our mission is all about at Rainforest Trust—working with local partners to protect rainforest habitat and threatened species. This is the story of one such partner, Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng of HERP Conservation Ghana, and the critical work this organization is undertaking with the support of Rainforest Trust and our donors.

“Rainforest Trust is one of the few organizations that has made us feel truly like their partner. They have always been sincere in wanting to hear our ideas and trust our expertise. We matter in the relationship.”
—Dr. Caleb Ofori-Boateng, Herp-Ghana