Okapi Conservation Project wins mongabay's 2012 conservation award

mongabay.com
December 06, 2012







A group that works to protect the rare okapi, a type of forest giraffe found only in the Congo Basin, has has won mongabay.com's 2012 conservation award.

The Okapi Conservation Project [DONATE] has been working to protect the okapi and its habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 25 years. The group was instrumental in establishing the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a 13,700-square-kilometer tract of wilderness in the Ituri Forest of northeastern DRC.

While the Okapi Conservation Project has had a long track record of success, earlier this year it was devastated by a brutal attack on the reserve's headquarters. Two wildlife rangers were among the six people killed during June 24 assault. 14 endangered okapi were slaughtered during the early morning raid, which was reportedly a response to a crackdown on illegal elephant poaching and gold mining inside the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

The attack was led by Mai Mai Simba rebels. The militia destroyed buildings and equipment at the facility, which is shared by the Institute in the Congo for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and the Okapi Conservation Project. Computers, phones, medical supplies, food, and other gear were stolen.

The dead included two ICCN rangers, the wife of one of the rangers, an immigration worker, and 2 residents of Epulu, the town where the attack took place.

In recognition of the shocking attack and the general struggles of working in the DRC, Mongabay.com selected the Okapi Conservation Project as this year's recipient of the award.

"What happened in Epulu and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve was truly tragic," said mongabay.com founder Rhett A. Butler. "I hope the Okapi Conservation Project and its local partners are able to fully rebuild and continues their efforts in the Congo."

John Lukas, co-founder of the Okapi Conservation Project, says the award will "go a long way in motivating our great staff and donors to remain committed to the conservation of the okapi as we move past the rebuilding phase and we focus more on engaging the communities in sustainable use of natural resources."

"The recognition from such a credible conservation forum as Mongabay encourages me and the OCP team to sustain our efforts to protect the home of the okapi and all the wildlife living in the rain forests of the Congo. The region remains in turmoil but through it all the OCP staff and the ICCN rangers have remained focused and committed to protecting the wildlife and helping the people living in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve."

Each year mongabay.com selects an organization to honor with its conservation award. The award includes a cash prize and prominent placement of mongabay.com's homepage and in its weekly newsletter for the month of December. Previous winners include the Amphibian Ark (2011), AITo and the Nantu Forest Conservation Program (2010), WildlifeDirect (2009), Health In Harmony/Project ASRI (2008), and the Amazon Conservation Team (2007).


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CITATION:
mongabay.com (December 06, 2012).

Okapi Conservation Project wins mongabay's 2012 conservation award.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/1205-okapi-cp_award_2012.html