Not as well-known as other large African mammals, the endangered okapi (also called forest giraffe) is found only in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world and is the exclusive home to 1,500 species. The most prominent threat to the okapi and other species in the DRC is habitat loss due to illegal mining and logging that occurs on protected lands. The okapi is also threatened by poaching and the bushmeat trade (illegal hunting and sale of wildlife as meat). A lack of political stability in the DRC makes effective conservation action even more challenging.
World Okapi Day is Wednesday, October 18, 2017! Celebrate with us at the Cincinnati Zoo from 10 to 2pm with special activities including a selfie station, keeper chats at 11, 12:45 and 2pm, animal enrichment and more! Plus, recycle a cell phone at the Zoo and get entered to win raffle prizes. (must be present at drawing at 1:45pm)
Okapi are facing illegal pressures in the wild and need our help. They need vast amounts of healthy, dense forests to survive.
Remaining unknown to the western world until 1901, the okapi is a cultural symbol in the Congo, and is considered an umbrella species for the immense biodiversity in the area – protecting the okapi means protecting all other species found in its habitat, including elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas.
Ways you can help save okapi:
The Zoo supports the efforts of the Okapi Conservation Project, a dedicated community of individuals working in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve inside the Ituri Forest. Established in 1992 and listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996, the Reserve is 1.5 times the area of Yellowstone National Park. It serves to protect its rare plants and animals as well as the lifestyle and culture of its indigenous people through wildlife protection, agroforestry and community assistance. Recent accomplishments include the initiation of a camera trap study and the elimination of more than 70 illegal poaching and mining camps.