Okapi Conservation Project
2016 Highlights and Accomplishments
Two thousand sixteen brought many opportunities to expand our programs in support of communities and protecting the okapi and its habitat. Below are some highlights and accomplishments during the past year.
- Joint patrols of Congolese Army soldiers and Institute in the Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) rangers supported by OCP closed over 50 gold mines and escorted thousands of miners out of the Reserve which had the extra benefit of reducing the demand for bush meat hunting to feed the miners in the Reserve.
- Over 500 patrols were conducted by ICCN rangers covering 15,000 kilometers in the Reserve, removing over 2,156 snares, arresting 113 poachers and evacuating illegal miners. The rangers destroyed 70 poaching and mining camps and confiscated equipment and contraband.
- Women’s focus groups that involved 155 women participants were held around the Reserve. They brought forth needs for their communities which included access to clean, fresh water and sustainable firewood options. OCP will address these issues in 2017.
- 24,149 tree seedlings were distributed to farmers as part our agroforestry program to increase their crop yields and lessen their incursions into critical okapi habitat. Rainforest tree seedlings were distributed to school students to plant for reforestation projects in exchange for soccer balls and uniforms.
- Established 11 new seed beds of various vegetables in Epulu and Mambasa nurseries.
- 1,000 copies of the first Okapi Wildlife Reserve newsletter were provided to communities living in and around the Reserve.
- Coordinated a security collaboration meeting of over 200 people in Mambasa to address current issues in the Reserve and solidify each partner’s and government agencies commitment to Reserve security.
- Forty six of fifty confiscated African grey parrots were rehabilitated and released after their feathers were damaged from glue traps. The remaining 4 continue to recover and were recently joined by 11 other confiscated grey parrots.
- Hired part time Program Officer to assist with grant writing, social media, marketing and development of World Okapi Day.
- Distributed 5 Thuraya satellite phones to ICCN to help improve communication between ICCN rangers on patrol and ICCN headquarters in Epulu.
- Initiated the first stage in a camera trap study of okapi near Epulu and Mamopi. With five cameras in bear-proof cases, OCP staff and ICCN rangers were trained on how to install them and change the batteries and check the memory cards. Within a few weeks, many photos of wild okapi were collected.
- Established and organized the inaugural World Okapi Day on October 18 where hundreds of people, several zoos and organizations gathered together to teach their friends and families about the enigmatic okapi’s role in protecting biodiversity in DR Congo with the online impact reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
- After the creation of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve 24 years ago, the Integral Conservation Area – a 3,296 square kilometer swath of lush rainforest comprising ¼ of the entire Reserve – was declared a totally protected area. The formal recognition of the area was the result of long, but fruitful and constructive negotiations between local communities and the ICCN.
- After the attack of the Zunguluka guard post by Maimai militia in January 2015, the Guard post was completely rebuilt using funds through a grant from the USFWS African Elephant Fund. In an effort to provide and promote sustainability, solar power was installed in each of the guard houses.