World Okapi Day in Review
On October 18th, we celebrated World Okapi Day in an adapted way across the Reserve. Due to COVID-19. We were unable to host the large celebrations we are used to, but we still stayed committed to making the event fun and most importantly – sharing the importance of protecting the rainforest for okapi and the amazing biological diversity found in the Ituri Forest. While individuals celebrated in small groups of family and friends, OCP presented several kinds of activities to help the community celebrate. To promote social distancing, most of the World Okapi Day content was presented through radio broadcasts. The Education Team, led by Jean Paul M’monga Kiete, has been hard at work developing these broadcasts that spread awareness for okapi, environmental protection, the role of ICCN eco-guards and the connection of human health to conservation. Radio is the primary form of communication across the region, as villages are often in remote locations and roads are in poor condition. We have received amazing feedback on the quality of these broadcasts, and because of them, the entire Reserve was able to enjoy World Okapi Day despite the pandemic.
Small meetings with village chiefs were also held across the Reserve in socially distanced settings to develop collaborative ways to work together on protecting okapi. Despite being endemic to the area and the national animal of the Congo, the okapi’s elusive nature means most people in the region have never seen one. OCP’s camera trap videos provide an opportunity for local communities to witness the rare animal that’s living in their very own backyard, along with a stunning array of other species. Educators held presentations on the wildlife and the importance of protecting the environment, and community leaders discussed in focus groups on how to move their own villages and the Congo as a whole towards a more environmentally secure future.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the success and enthusiasm behind World Okapi Day, despite the limitations caused by the ongoing pandemic. Celebrations were even held in several other areas around the country including Bunia and the capital of Kinshasa with news outlets picking up the celebrations and sharing the importance of protecting okapi. We are overjoyed by the outpouring of support from community members and to see the expansion of the day around DRC and celebrations from our global supporters.