Camera traps are necessary tools to observe secretive wildlife, like okapi in their natural habitats. In June of this year, Team Okapi, a group made up of seven ICCN rangers, six OCP staff and 6 pygmies deployed up camera traps around the circumference of the Mewa edo, a natural clearing in the forest, similar to a glade, with access to water and mineral-rich soil. These areas attract many spectacular animals found within the Ituri Forest, and Mewa in particular is a pristine environment with little to no human impact, because of its remote location requiring a two-day bushwhacking hike through the forest.
Because of their longstanding relationship and understanding of the forest, the pygmies led the team to Mewa and helped identify signs of different species – dung, mineral licks, chewed leaves footprints that provided preliminary information on what species are frequenting this area.
A total of 10 camera traps were deployed – with seven around the perimeter facing inward and three on the outside in the forest. During the trek in, Team Okapi met with the pygmy hunters that live in the area to learn about human activity in the region. Small scale, localized hunting occurs, but there are no armed poachers in the area, which is a promising sign that wildlife will be present.
Though very few animals were directly observed other than a colony of Africa Grey Parrots feeding on the mineral-rich clay near the stream, many signs of elephant, buffalo and okapi were seen.
In September, the team returned to switch the memory cards and batteries and review the photos and videos. Though there were some technical issues with some of the camera traps, we were able to collect some fantastic images and videos to share!