The okapi, or rainforest giraffe, lives only in Congo and is most abundant in the rich forests just northwest of the Rwenzori Mountain. This shy, solitary animal probably reaches its highest density in the Okapi Reserve which contained, before the recent civil war, more than 4000 okapis.
Like all Congo’s large mammals, the okapi suffered during the lawless periods of the prolonged war. Even in the Okapi Reserve its population was reduced by more than 40% (see maps below). Unlike many places, the Okapi Reserve has undergone an amazing recovery. More land is controlled by the ICCN (Park service) now, than before the beginning of armed conflict. Will this allow the okapi to recover?
So it was very fitting that the President would stop at the Okapi Reserve headquarters and visit its captive okapi during his tour of the road, the RN4, newly repaired by the World Bank.
Below are some pictures of his trip earlier this month (March 09):
And then the President left. But, among the welcome-paraphernalia that remained on display by the road in Epulu was an old campaign sign. It promised that after five years, the president would change Congo, answering fundamental national needs: roads, employment, lodging, schools/hospitals, and water/electricity.
The task seems as daunting as ever. At least, with this road repaired, two and a half years after the election, there is visible progress. But, is this progress for the Okapi ? A smooth road now runs through the very center of their reserve; how will that effect the numbers mapped below? Will the progress the Reserve seemed to be making against poachers still hold?