In one of my recent posts, I revealed my fascination with the okapi, a giraffe-like creature that I first saw at London Zoo. Because of this fascination with okapi, I became interested in the work of the Okapi Conservation Project.
Okapi at Marwell Wildlife Park.
Picture copyright David Connop Price.
Sadly, the project has been in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Six people and 13 okapi were massacred by mai mai rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to reports from staff from the Institute in the Congo for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) headquarters and Okapi Conservation Project base, located in the Ituri Forest, these rebels attacked their complex, killing two of the rangers that patrol the area to prevent poaching.
The rebels, who are thought to be a a group of elephant poachers and illegal miners, also killed the wife of one of the rangers, an immigration worker, and two residents of Epulu, a nearby village. The gunmen also destroyed and looted the buildings on the site. Villagers and ICCN staff had to flee for their lives into the forest, or walk to the nearest city, Mambassa.
One of Marwell Wildlife Park's okapis. Picture by David Connop Price.
Their stripey hind-quarters and velvety coats mean many people think the okapi is a cross between a horse and a zebra, but in fact the okapi is the giraffe’s distant cousin.
BECAUSE of their shyness, okapis are not necessarily a zoo favourite, but I became enamoured with them from the moment I set eyes on one – at London Zoo.
I was accompanying my sister, Kim, on one of her regular trips to London Zoo with the boys she was looking after at the time. We’d gone to the Into Africa exhibit where towering giraffes, beautiful zebras and strange-looking tapirs are housed.
Then we came across an enclosure which I’d not been to before.