White Oak Conservation Center Inc

White Oak Conservation Center, Inc helps conserve some of the earth's rarest wild animals through innovative training, research, education, community outreach and field programs that contribute to the survival of wildlife in nature.
Mar 6, 2012

Aerial Forest Monitoring

typical slash and burn plot
typical slash and burn plot

One of our tools for monitoring the health of the Ituri Forest and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is aerial surveys.  By conducting regular fly overs we can detect illegal activities such as poaching and mining, as well as agricultural encroachment into protected areas.  Farmers expand their farms because slash and burn agricultural techniques are inefficient and their fields become unproductive in 2-3 years and they cut down more forest to try and feed their families.  The aerial surveys identify areas where agricultural areas are encroaching into the Reserve so that the teams can focus on those issues.   

The Okapi Conservation Project agroforestry team works with farmers providing techniques which improve and preserve the soil quality while producing higher yields to allow them to efficiently feed their families.  The Project education team teaches farmers about their role as stewards of the forest, to understand the importance of the wildlife and forest and their natural heritage. By regularly monitoring with aerial surveys we can evaluate the progress of our programs to control slash and burn agriculture and reforestation.   

healthy forest!
healthy forest!

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Dec 9, 2011

Fall Update 2011

This report includes and update on the Okapi Conservation Project with information on the education team and agroforestry team, personnel and activities working to conserve the Ituri Forest and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.  Specific details on agroforestry projects related to stopping slash and burn agriculture and photos are included.

Agro-forestry Update

The Agro-forestry team continues to work with farmers around the OWR.  Gathering seeds and planting and transferring seedlings take up a large portion of our efforts.  As nitrogen fixing leguminous plants, Leucena and Calliandra seedlings form the important basis for farmer’s plots and are the first trees planted to restore the soil in preparation for planting vegetables and food items.  Both can also be used for fuel wood as they grow larger.  The team also distributed fruit tree seedlings for farmers, for a total of 7514 trees distributed and planted in the last quarter.  African Mosaic Disease in cassava plants causes serious problems for subsistence farmers in the region who depend on the cassava as a staple.  Our team is helping to distribute and study disease modified strains of cassava for farmers participating in the program and four community fields of disease resistant cassava were recently established

The Assistant Director of the Okapi Conservation Project is Marcel Enckoto, a Congolese national born in eastern DR Congo.   Marcel has been working for the Okapi Conservation Project since July 1990 after receiving his degree in Human Sciences (Linguistics and Psychology).  He is married with 4 children, who go to school in Butembo, DRC.   Marcel feels the okapi is important as a scientifically unique species and has worked nearly his entire life to ensure its protection.  He enjoys speaking with and education people, both nationally and internationally about conservation.  It takes great courage to tackle the big challenges of traveling around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve to teach about conservation while dealing with major issues like poor roads, poverty, political instability and persistent illegal activities. 

Thanks to your gifts and the Global Giving community we are able to work with subsistence farmers and improve their livelihoods and their ability to care for their families, while preserving the forests and wildlife in the Ituri Forest of the DR Congo.

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Dec 9, 2011

Fall Update 2011

Update on Wildlife Protection in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Institute in Congo for Conservation of Nature (ICCN)

The ICCN Okapi Wildlife Reserve is managed by ICCN Director J.J. Mapilanga with the help of Conservator Principal (Warden) Gishlain Somba.  They oversee the 110 Okapi Wildlife Reserve rangers and manage the wildlife protection and security in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, research projects, community conservation programs, and work in close partnership with the Okapi Conservation Project.     

Unrest in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The pressure to exploit the natural resources of the DR Congo continues, with the high price of gold, diamonds, coltan, ivory and timber driving illegal activities.  Reports of ivory being purchased in Kisangani for $200 per kg for export provide ample motivation for poachers to risk their lives to enter the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.  Gold mining has become more lucrative and Chinese companies using motorized equipment are dredging and extracting on the Ituri River, which is the southern border of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.  Bushmeat has become a valuable secondary byproduct as crews extracting timber or gold, or pursuing elephant ivory, are also hunting antelope, primates and okapi. 

This trade is driven in part by the extensive Asian influence in the DR Congo, and recent CITES reports indicate the problem is widespread across Africa, as the Chinese increase their economic relations with poor African countries.  Like the DRC, these countries generally have poor infrastructure to protect their natural resources and rely heavily on western donor agencies and NGO’s to support environmental protection initiatives. 

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve has seen a significant increase in organized illegal mining and ivory poaching which has become a serious concern for the ICCN.  In their efforts to maintain the integrity of the OWR, ICCN wardens and rangers have expanded their efforts, working with local populations and lobbying government officials to help control the illegal activities.  This is a double edged sword as often times government and army personnel are involved in the actions.  

Because of the limited number of rangers on patrol in the vast OWR, ICCN often relies on mixed operations with the DR Congo Army to help with large or dangerous poaching or mining camps.  The southwestern sector, adjacent to the potentially rich Ituri River gold deposits, has been a hotspot of late and several operations have been conducted there in the last year.  These operations often result in firefights, arrests and even deaths both to poachers and rangers.  The Okapi Conservation Project is pooling our resources with other NGOs to both support the operations and lobby for political intervention at the highest levels of the DR Congo administration.      

Patrol Results:

During the second quarter of 2011 Okapi Wildlife Reserve rangers made 179 patrols representing 377 ranger days covering 6,086 km, mostly on foot.  During the patrols the rangers arrested 11 poachers and 13 miners and released 53 hunters and 39 miners.  They confiscated 5 guns, 110 pieces of ivory, 56 shovels for gold extraction and picked up 1237 wire and nylon snares.  While on patrol OWR rangers saw 9 okapi, 44 forest elephants and 17 chimpanzees. 

Okapi Wildlife Reserve Infrastructure

The Okapi Conservation Project is initiating a second project for the construction of permanent ranger housing at the Zunguluka Patrol Post located on the main road of the eastern border to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.  This patrol post is a critical entry and exit point for all vehicle and pedestrian traffic through the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, as well as a base for forest patrols in the eastern portion of the Reserve.  This project will construct housing for rangers and their families in support of their wildlife protection work in OWR.  The project is possible through a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Fund – Wildlife Without Borders.

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