After last year’s launch of the inaugural World Okapi Day on October 18th, the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) wanted to increase the profile and the reach of the 2nd Annual World Okapi Day in 2017 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to garnering support through social media postings and events held at zoos around the world that generously support OCP, it was determined that a series of organized races in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be undertaken. The events were planned to run simultaneously in the territories of Mambasa, Epulu, Niania and Wamba; these four territories are within the okapi range and where the bulk of the okapi population resides. OCP’s approach has always been to engage the local communities, and a community celebration on World Okapi Day was a way to create lasting excitement for okapi.
The event was to be a celebration that included the community at large, as well as a way to disseminate a message of conservation and civic pride. The culmination of the event was a series of races with local teens racing for World Okapi Day related prizes, and payment for their school fees. The logistics and planning for these events were conducted through the ongoing partnership with ICCN, local community leaders, officials and schools. The financial support for each event, materials and prizes came from generous donations from zoological institutions worldwide including the Saint Louis Zoo (USA), Parco Zoo Falconara (Italy), Zoo Antwerpen (Belgium) and Zoo Leipzig (Germany). Without their contributions, these events would not have been possible.
To keep with the theme of future leaders, all of the athletes who participated in the races were secondary school students between the ages of 16 and 18. Twenty runners were selected in each of the four territories (Mambasa, Epulu, Niania and Wamba) with the help of school coaches and secondary school Headmasters to compete in the World Okapi Day race. The runners comprised of 10 girls and 10 boys, selected from the different secondary schools in each territory.
Each of the World Okapi Day celebrations started with a community parade, aimed at increasing the number of attendees and spreading the message to a larger percentage of the community. The parades concluded with the audience gathering for the student races. Prior to the start of the races there were several introductory speeches to the gathered audience that highlighted the purpose behind World Okapi Day and to inspire the community to continue to preserve the okapi and their natural resources. Each speaker strived to inspire pride in their communities and emphasize the role the community plays in protecting okapi.
The top three winners in each race received a cash prize that covered their school fees for 1 to 3 months, an okapi notebook, a small radio and a World Okapi Day tote bag. All of the race participants received a school bag adorned with an okapi photo and a “World Okapi Day” pen.
Thanks to the World Okapi Day events, an estimated number of 15,000 children and adults participated across the four territories.
As we grow the events year after year, we welcome additional sponsorships to expand into new villages and increase participation in current areas.
If you or your organization are interested in sponsoring, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.