Encroachment from human settlement, illegal hunting, logging, and mining, and the illicit activities of armed groups are serious threats to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. General economic and civil instability of the Democratic Republic of Congo after years of interior conflict, also burdens the government’s ability to address the threats to the OWR.

The Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) is a government agency whose imperative is to protect the country’s flora and fauna. ICCN wardens, rangers and guards share a wide range of protection and law-enforcement responsibilities — collecting snares, evicting miners, pursuing and detaining poachers, monitoring agricultural expansion, and engaging communities throughout the DRC in conservation awareness and education. On the front lines of even the most dangerous missions, they were instrumental in the yearlong manhunt that took down the notorious poacher Morgan and his syndicate, and the elimination of several experienced elephant poacher rings. Learn more about the ICCN’s takedown of Morgan here.

Rangers walk up to 20 days out of the month patrolling and risking their lives while spending time away from their families and homes in the harsh conditions of the rainforest.  Rangers are recruited from local villages providing employment to communities close to the Reserve and include women and Mbuti pygmyies. ICCN recruits go through 3 months of rigorous training before ever going on patrol, with only 50 rangers able to be trained at a time.

Okapi Conservation Project supports and works with the ICCN to ensure the availability of resources for rapid response to threats to the integrity of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Healthcare and housing for ICCN personnel and their families, in addition to equipment, supplies, facilities and infrastructure are supported by OCP and its partners. Specialized education and training in not only wildlife management but communications, technology, and language are essential components also supported by OCP. The effective conservation presence provided by a well-equipped and disciplined ICCN guard force depends on assistance from a strong network of collaborative partners.