Copyright 2022 Darryl M. Silver. All rights reserved.
Okapi – The Coolest Animal You’ve Never Heard Of!
Okapi are shy, reclusive animals that are only found in the dense rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo and though it’s been known to the local people in the region for millenia, it was only discovered by scientists in 1901. Contrary to what many people think, even though they have stripes, the okapi is not related to zebras. It’s actually the closest living relative to the giraffe! When you look closely at the shape of their head and the way they walk, you will definitely see the resemblance. Even though it’s the national animal of the DR Congo, it was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2013. Threats to okapi include slash-and-burn farming, illegal gold mining and bushmeat poaching. The Okapi Conservation Project has been working in this area since 1987 in order to protect the okapi’s rainforest home.
We work in three pillars to reduce the human population’s impact on the rainforest in order to protect okapi and other animals that live in it.
We partner with the Institute in Congo for conservation of Nature to reduce and eliminate direct threats to okapi including removal of snares, arresting poachers and closing illegal mines.
We ensure that communities have their basic needs met in order to improve their standard of living while reducing their impact on the forest. This includes women empowerment programs, sustainable agriculture practices, access to food, healthcare and clean water.
We educate children (and adults!) on the importance of ensuring that the forest remains intact for the benefit of the animals, plants and humans that live in the region.
You can help protect okapi too! First, by sharing with your friends and family that okapi are real animals and a species all their own, not a mish mash of different species. Second, if you are buying a ring or jewelry for a loved one, make sure it’s sustainably sourced. And third, when you inevitably need a new cell phone, make sure you recycle your old one. Many of the metals needed to make cell phones work, are mined in the forests where the okapi is found.
For more information on the okapi and how we are working to protect it, visit www.okapiconservation.org.