Amid tremendous pressures, ICCN rangers continue to conduct patrols into the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, collecting snares and pursuing poachers. At a recent scientific and political meeting in Kisangani, evidence of the increased scale of poaching in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve was presented, including evidence of okapi deaths to snares. With the increased pressure of miners and loggers coming into the reserve the demand for bush meat is greater than ever before, with snares becoming more numerous, and the indiscriminate casualties now affecting a wide array of forest wildlife.
In addition, ICCN rangers see clear evidence of an uptick in poaching for forest elephants in the DR Congo. These unique animals, along with elephants throughout the continent of Africa, are presently under an enormous threat from poachers after ivory.
Helping the rangers of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve protect the forest home that is needed for so much wildlife is critical now, more than ever. We thank you sincerely for your support and ask that you share this with your friends on Facebook, or any other social media.
The wildlife of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is under unprecedented pressures in recent months from not only illegal gold mining and elephant poaching, but as well from both rebel and army personnel seeking to gather ever greater amounts of bush meat for consumption and sale. As Mai Mai fighters have terrorized local communities, rangers stationed in this area of the DR Congo face a difficult and dangerous task of wildlife protection.
Presently rangers are restricted to patrolling away from areas where there has been recent conflict, but as circumstances allow, they will cast a wider net of protection, as before, throughout the Reserve. With the continued care and involvement of individuals and institutions from around the world, these rangers will be able to carry on in their important conservation work.
In spite of ongoing instability in DRC the Okapi Conservation Project continues to support the ICCN rangers in their pursuit of poachers in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. After the attack on ICCN (Institute in Congo for Conservation of Nature) headquarters in Epulu some months ago, ICCN rangers have teamed up with DRC soldiers to track down and apprehend those responsible for that destructive and deadly attack.
The increasing worldwide demand for resources from this forest, including ivory, gold, diamonds and coltan has triggered a dramatic increase in forest intrusion and destruction. With the added burden of people in the forest, the increase in bushmeat poaching is inevitable. ICCN rangers spend their days in harsh conditions as they work through the forest tracking poachers and collecting snares. It is dangerous and grueling work, but each success brings satisfaction to these proud conservation soldiers.
ICCN rangers, and their families, are truly on the front lines of conservation in this World Heritage Site, home to the greatest biodiversity in Africa. Your support goes directly to help these rangers accomplish the important tasks before them.
The Okapi Conservation Project is not immune to the global pressures of an increased demand for ivory, gold and bushmeat. Three months ago armed rebels attacked the ICCN headquarters in the village of Epulu, killing rangers, and looting and burning ICCN and OCP buildings, and terrorizing residents. Many people fled the town and have been unable to return to their gardens and homes while the area remains unsecured.
This attack on the ranger station and the OCP compound was a direct retaliation for recent anti-poaching efforts by the ICCN guards in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The Okapi Conservation Project continues to support the ICCN rangers in their front line struggle to protect the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. We are presently assisting those families in Epulu most affected by this tragic event, with food and medical needs, and we also continue to support other communities around the Reserve with agro-forestry education, among our other community programs.
We will have more information on the unfolding situation from our Project Leaders next month. We are grateful for the tremendous support that has poured in from around the world over these past many weeks. For up-to-date information on the Okapi Conservation Project, please visit our website at http://www.okapiconservation.org/.
How do you monitor the health of a rainforest? One of our methods is to conduct regular aerial surveys. Unlike the savannahs in Africa, where you can fly over and actually count elephants and other wildlife from the air, this level of detail is impossible in the dense forests. Yet aerial surveys are still important and can reveal a lot. The indicators include poaching camps, mining camps, and areas where agricultural encroachment into the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is increasing.
To conduct the aerial surveys we work with partners at MAF who maintain excellent small planes with very skilled bush pilots. Flight transects are performed over a 3-5 day period (depending on weather) in different sectors of the vast Okapi Wildlife Reserve (13,760 km2). Observers in the plane look for any evidence of illegal activities and of course enjoy the incredible diversity of tree and plant life in the landscape of the Ituri Forest.
Details from the surveys are provided to the rangers of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve who then deploy to the areas of illegal activities in the forest to detain the perpetrators. This process has worked very well in the past to stop illegal poaching and mining activities inside the Reserve. The aerial presence also helps deter poachers and miners who realize their activities will be seen from the air. The surveys are another important tool in our work to conserve the forest and protect the okapi, elephants and other wildlife.
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