Navrongo: Of Crocodile Ponds and Slave Camps

From Kumasi I headed north to Navrongo to work on SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana’s campaign against frog meat. Amphibians are being overharvested in the region and to make matters worse the area is extremely threatened by climate change. There is much to do!

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Traveling to Navrongo is cheapest by bus, but it is expensive in terms of your time. We arrived at the bus terminal at 5pm, boarded the bus at 7pm, and finally arrived to Navrongo by 5:30am. This bus was surprisingly nice, but the driver liked to drive as if he was operating a sports car. During the middle of the trip we stopped to refuel and I was surprised by the amount of energy drinks offered at the local market. Hundreds of Red Bull…

Redbull, Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Ghana is an incredibly diverse country and it seems to be in a transitional phase. The country is divided up into mostly Christians and Muslims. While the official language is English, Ghanaians speak 49 different languages and many of these people hold roots in indigenous tribes. With competition of resources and the devastating effects of climate change ravaging the country, many indigenous people are relocating to the cities in order to find work. Unfortunately western civilization has had a bad influence on the people of Ghana.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

While the majority of Ghanaians are poor, there are many people with great sums of money. Therefore the influence from the West and Europe play a role in the form of materialism. Cell phones, car chargers, mp3 players, etc can be found in most towns. The quality of these items if poor as they are second rate versions of the originals that are shipped to Ghana from China. To make matters worse, consumerism plagues the land in the form of trash.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

With a campaign slogan like that and you think people wouldn’t smoke. Yet they do. Plastic bags, cigarettes, Styrofoam, and other forms of polyurethane cover the land like tumbleweeds cover the American Southwest. Currently as I write this, I am looking out into a Savannah that is dotted black with plastic bags. It is disheartening to see such pollution.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Advertisements for protecting yourself from diseases are common. Although I have yet to see a package of condoms for sale. So it goes.

On a lighter note, do you LOVE Shea Butter as much as I do?

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Well you can thank this magnificent tree!

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

These are Shea Nuts and they come from the Shea Nut Tree!

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

The Shea Nuts pictured are not ripe, but apparently they are quite sweet.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

I had to try them anyway and they definitely were not ripe! You can see the nut where they mash them up to make the wonderful product you use called Shea Butter. The more you know!

When I told people I was traveling to Navrongo, almost everyone told me that I should visit Paga. Paga? What’s Paga? It turns out that Paga is a small town right outside of Navrongo where the people living there have an interesting relationship with crocodiles. Lore states that long ago when Paga was first founded the chieftain of the town was from death by a crocodile. Since then the people have revered the crocodiles and they believe that their souls are linked to the crocodile’s souls. One person told me that “If you kill a crocodile, then you kill someone in the village!” Ok, I am all for caring about crocodiles, but what’s to visit?

Zenga Crocodile Farm 550

Traditional beliefs have an interesting way of manifesting themselves into today’s world. It turns out that years upon years of caretaking (i.e. feeding) these crocs means that the crocodiles are puppy dog tame and even come when called. If you pay a small fee, these villagers will call a croc and you can sit on it.

crocodile, africa, ghana

Would you sit on this?

Zenga 2 550

Yes. Yes, I did.

This is a perfect example of the “stupid, ignorant tourist”. I normally do not support such actions as the result is inevitably a wildlife/people conflict that usually ends badly for the animal. However, not to justify my actions, but these animals are sacred to these people and the crocs have learned not to attack because they will be fed a whole, live chicken.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa, crocodile

Which, unbeknownst to me, I paid for the chicken. Croc’s gotta eat, right? *Sigh* so I have intense guilt about sitting on that crocodile and for supporting this form of ecotourism. This is not a sustainable form of ecotourism as the animal’s population size will continue to grow and they will begin competing for food. Which was observed at Zenga, as there are 200 crocs that inhabit this pond. Why did I do it then? Being respective to my hosts, peer pressure, and a wee bit of selfishness. To be completely honest, it is pretty awesome being that close to a 9’ crocodile that could tear you apart in seconds. I really like my crocs…

caiman, panama

Caiman, Panama, 2008.

From there we headed to the Pikworo Slave Camp.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

The word “Pikworo” means “the place of the rocks” and this camp was a holding area for slaves collected in Ghana, Mali, and Togo. From here they would go to Salagash Slave Market where they would be sold to buyers from around the world. The worst part? Other indigenous tribes enslaved other tribes for profit.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

About 90% of the slaves were forcibly taken and the rest were either sold by a family member or convinced that slavery would take them to “greener pastures”.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

The slaves were provided millet to eat and they would grind up the flour in these grinding holes.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

As a form of entertainment the slaves played these rocks. The rocks echo with various tones and you can create some interesting rhythms.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

No one wants to be enslaved. This rock demonstrates that fact. When slaves misbehaved they would be forced to lay on their backs covering this rock and then their hands and feet were bound together by chains. They would stay there for as long as their punishment lasted. The shape of this rock is formed from the chains eroding away the rock.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

This image speaks for itself, but many people died coming through this slave camp. This is an unfortunate part of modern civilization’s history that I was privileged to learn about today. Respect.

This evening we had a meeting with the community of Navrongo to discuss the issue of harvesting of frogs for food and for bait.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Later in the week we are going to hold a Save The Frogs Day event with many educational activities and action plans to put a stop to the unsustainable harvest of frogs in the area.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

We spoke to the community about the importance of amphibians in local ecosystems and addressed our concerns about the unsustainable harvest of frogs in the area. The village chief even came out to show support for the meeting. After we gave our presentations, we opened up the conversation so the community could express their concerns or ask questions.Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa The response was great! Many members expressed their concern for the issue and stated that it is because of having no other options that they must hunt for the frogs. It is dangerous work hunting frogs at night where there are large crocodiles in the area (I should know). The people just need an alternative solution to frog meat so they can survive. The chief even gave us his blessing and supported our efforts. This is great news for frog conservation in Navrongo!

After the meeting we were invited by the local FM radio station to explain the work we are conducting in the area. We talked about why frogs are important, how they benefit people, and conservation issues in Ghana. It was an educational show and it was broadcasted to many people in the area of Navrongo. Definitely a good day for frog conservation in Ghana.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

Lastly, here’s an example of the “wall geckos” or “landlords”… because they are always home. Good night all.

Tourism, Ecotourism, Ghana, Africa, traveling Africa

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Do you like my posts? Please consider supporting my work in Africa and around the world with donation to SAVE THE FROGS!

SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana, Save The Frogs, Africa, Amphibian Conservation, Ghana
www.savethefrogs.com/donate

Thank you for reading and for your support! Save Frogs, Save The World!

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3 thoughts on “Navrongo: Of Crocodile Ponds and Slave Camps

  1. Dear Mr. Starkey,
    Your photos are phenomenol! I was searching the internet for pictures of Shea nut trees for a project I am doing for school. I am writing to ask permission to use two of your photos in my project? a) the shea nut tree and the shea nut opened. I will ensure that your name is credited with the photo. Is it okay? By the way, the photo with the crocodile looks scary. You are brave. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your consideration.

      1. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate it and wish you all the best!

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