The gentle, shy okapi lives only in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country torn by war and strife. That conflict extends to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, where poachers, gold miners, and rebels threaten the peace of the forests.
The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) works in the heart of the DRC to support the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and the people and animals that live within its borders. OCP must work very closely with the ICCN, a government agency responsible for the protection of the country’s flora and fauna, and the Congolese army to carry out its work. The reserve spreads over more than 5,200 square miles, so patrolling the dense rainforest environment requires a major effort. When the reserve is safe, it provides both a home for wildlife and a bounty of resources for the local pygmy people.
OCP currently has the opportunity to scale up the force of dedicated ICCN guards working in the reserve from 70 to 120. These guards will be able to take over from the soldiers that have been keeping the peace in the area since 2012, thus improving relations with local people while continuing to maintain security and minimize poaching and illegal mining in the reserve. The guards are currently receiving training and going out on patrols with the help of army members, but they will able to fully take over in early 2016.
Okapi Conservation Project needs urgent assistance to maintain stability and peace in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve while the guard program grows.