The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens proudly supports the Okapi Conservation Project working in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A shy and elusive animal, the okapi was only identified by western world in 1901. Commonly called the ‘forest giraffe’, it is not a hybrid or cross breed of two animals, but is a distinct species all its own. Declared endangered in 2013, threats to the okapi’s survival include deforestation, poaching and mining. The survival of the species is completely dependent on undisturbed tracts of rainforest, and human disturbance in the forest has contributed to its 50% population decline in the past 15 years.
Okapi in the Ituri forest caught on camera trap.
The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) was founded by John Lukas in 1987 to work to protect the okapi and its habitat through partnerships with other private organizations and the government of DRC. OCP supports rangers that patrol the forest - arresting poachers and shutting down illegal logging and mining operations in the Reserve. OCP also coordinates an agroforestry program that teaches farmers strategic planning, like crop rotation, that keeps the soil fertile for longer periods of time instead of continually cutting into the rainforest to find more fertile soil. Community assistance is a key component to OCP’s organization and they provide support to healthcare centers, schools and women’s groups throughout the Reserve, gaining trust and building relationships to help the communities in and around the okapi habitat.
Planting in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.