Angola is one of the most biodiverse countries in Africa. Part of its unique biological richness lies in the highlands (temperate and relatively moist areas above 1700 m asl), of which the Humpata plateau constitutes its southern limit. This region is famous for amazing landscapes features such as Tundavala, but little is known about its fauna. To address these shortcomings, we produced a poster about its amphibians and reptiles!

Pulling this poster together combined scientific research and graphic design. Firstly, we searched for information from literature and surveys carried out on the Humpata plateau, to compile a list of amphibians and reptiles that occur there. We then gathered photographs of all frogs, toads, lizards and snakes, mainly photographed in the region, displaying a striking diversity of shapes, colours, sizes and habitat uses. Some of the species only occur in the Angolan highlands – such as Chela Reed Frog (Hyperolius chelaensis), probably one of Angola’s most threatened amphibians, described in 2012 and never seen again.

In the design atelier, there were other challenges. Assembling this poster was the synthesis of years of hard work, carried out by nature lovers. Reducing it to a single page encompassed the responsibility of trying to honor that effort and transmit the beauty of each species. Behind each picture, there is a story of dedication – finding the animal, getting the right shot, capturing unique moments. Then choosing the best image for each species that fitted scientific requirements, showed relevant characteristics and had aesthetic appeal, all while ensuring the quality of the photo. After this choice, each image is cut cropped – a time-consuming technique called ‘deep etching’ – and then edited, sometimes using applications to correct colour tones or improve resolution. We created symbols to represent the abundance and habitats of all species, and then moved towards the spatial architecture. Fitting a tiny species like the Monard reed frog (Hyperolius cinereus), just over 2 cm, in the same poster as a black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), which reaches more than 2 m, was definitely challenging! Finally, like in nature, where life arises out of the chaos, images fit together harmoniously, giving meaning to the whole.

The poster “Amphibian and Reptiles of the Humpata Plateau” celebrates a long lasting partnership between Fundação Kissama, an Angolan NGO, and FHF – Tracilustra, a Brazilian/Angolan illustration and design atelier, often producing environmental education materials in Angola. It is our conviction that combining science and art in appealing content is the best way to bring nature into the society’s attention. This poster has just been published in Portuguese and English. It will allow for people to get to know the incredible diversity of frogs and reptiles of the Humpata plateau, and hopefully encourage them to be proactive in their conservation!  The Bill Branch Memorial Grant from National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project was the perfect funding, recognizing Bill’s surveys conducted in the region years ago.

Find out more about Fundação Kissama and FHF – Tracilustra and our diverse projects on our websites and social media!

By: Ninda L. Baptista, Fernando Hugo Fernandes, Vladimir Russo & Pedro Vaz Pinto. Fundação Kissama; FHF – Tracilustra; CIBIO, ISCED-Huíla

Photo: William R. Branch