The okapi, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN, is only found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
The head of an informal militia and poaching group, Paul Sadala a.k.a. “Morgan,” was killed on Monday after surrendering himself to the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A well-known elephant poacher and terrorist, Morgan became most famous for leading an attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in 2012. During the assault, Morgan and his militia burned down the station, killed seven people, kidnapped and raped dozens of women and girls, and shot dead 14 captive okapis held as ambassadors for the park.
The militia leader turned himself into the DRC military on Saturday, along with about 40 of his followers. On Monday, however, Morgan was killed. According to the government, he was shot while attempting to escape and later died from his wounds.
Top: the burned headquarters at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Bottom: one of the killed okapis. Photos courtesy of UNESCO.
“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters, adding that Morgan died on the way to the hospital from his wounds.
Also according to Reuters, the bulk of Morgan’s crew—about 30 men—are currently under guard in a nearby village. A UN-led group (MONUSCO) is en-route to the village to check on the fighters.
Morgan and his group have been accused of cannibalism, torture, and selling captives into sexual slavery. Morgan was a well-known elephant poacher, but had recently turned to robbing gold mines reports Reuters. His attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in Epulu two years ago was apparently as revenge against anti-poaching activities by park officials.
“The death of Morgan is great news,” wrote Teresa Hart, the director of the DRC’s TL2 conservation project, in a blog on the incident. “May it allow the whole Okapi Reserve to be reclaimed for conservation. And may it be the beginning of order elsewhere in the forest.”
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits in the DRC’s northeast in the Ituri Forest. The remote region suffers from lawlessness and illegal resource extraction, such as logging and mining.
(04/08/2014) The forestry sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is completely out of control, according to a new eye-opening report. Put together by the Chatham House, the report estimates that at least 87 percent of logging in the DRC was illegal in 2011, making the DRC possibly the most high-risk country in the world for purchasing legal wood products.
(11/26/2013) The discovery of the okapi shocked the world in 1901. African explorer, Henry Stanley, called it ‘donkey-like,’ while others thought it a new species of zebra, given the stripes. However, this notoriously-secretive rainforest ungulate proved to be the world’s only living relative of the giraffe, making it one of most incredible taxonomic discoveries of the Twentieth Century as well as one of the last large-bodied mammals to be uncovered by scientists. But the future of the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is increasingly in doubt: a new update of the IUCN Red List released today has raised the threatened level for the okapi from Vulnerable to Endangered.
(09/09/2013) On June 24th of last year, MaiMai Simba rebels, led by an elephant poacher known as Morgan, launched a devastating attack on the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The attack, which was reportedly in response to a crack down on poaching and illegal mining in the park, left buildings burned, equipment destroyed, and six people dead including two rangers. The militia also left with 28 women hostages, many of them minors. As if to add insult to injury, the militia didn’t leave until they shot dead all 14 captive okapis at the headquarters, which were used as wildlife ambassadors for the local community.