Enhanced Support to Protect Okapi in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Timeframe: 2018 // 2019 // 2021-2023
Country/Region: Democratic Republic of Congo
Partner: Okapi Conservation Project

The okapi, or “forest giraffe”, is one of the least observed mammals on Earth and has only been known to the western world since the early 20th century. Okapi are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and have been protected since 1933. The okapi is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is a fully protected species under Congolese law.

The okapi’s existence is under severe threat from the impact of human activities and its survival is entirely dependent on an intact and ecologically functioning forest. Deforestation, along with poaching and mining, has led to the species recent precipitous decline. The presence of illegal armed groups in and around key protected areas is a current threat as they prevent conservation action and facilitate poaching, logging and illegal mining.

The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) has a Contract of Collaboration with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) to provide support for rangers that protect and monitor the wildlife and forests of the Ituri Forest in eastern DRC with equipment, training, daily wages, performance bonuses and health care for them and their families. OCP is the longest standing partner of ICCN in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR) and this project builds upon the recent successes in reducing illegal activities in the OWR by providing additional resources to improve the intensity and effectiveness of ranger patrolling efforts.

Equipment and information from an informer network and local communities allowed ranger patrols to maximize their efforts to eliminate illegal activities from critical okapi habitat. Moreover, building facilities for the rangers, such as an office with internet connection and a secure storage, improved morale and communication and provided security to store confiscated wildlife products and equipment needed to successfully prosecute poachers and miners. The payment of performance bonuses to rangers on patrols allows the rangers to stay in the field longer and cover more ground resulting in more opportunities to remove snares, intercept poachers and inspect more mines to prevent them from being reoccupied.

In 2021, Fondation Segré renewed its commitment to OCP for an additional two years. This additional funding will provide performance bonuses to rangers, will finance the construction of a fence around the Biakato Nursery, a project that will enhance the OCP agroforestry program and enable continued support to local farmers. In addition, our grant will supply the medical inventory essential to the Okapi Health Clinic in Epulu to administer health care to all OWR employees and their families.