Introducing Multiple Use Zones in the Northern Sector of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve (13,760 km2) is designated as a multiple use reserve in the DR Congo, providing community access for hunting and agriculture, including the Mbuti pygmy indigenous people. The Coordination Committee of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (OWR), lead by the Institute in Congo for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) works with community leaders and local NGO’s to designate, farming, hunting and core areas (no access or hunting). The Okapi Conservation Project has been appointed to organize preparatory education campaigns concerning zoning in the OWR Northern Sector. The first incentive to this plan was undertaken last March, when OCP educator Gomo, and Wildlife Conservation Society partner and technician Ntumba, traveled to Watsa for meetings and obtained a zoning protocol signature from the Regional Administrator in order to proceed.
In July and August the OCP education team organized 9 meetings in villages with 250 participants from Kebo and Ateru communities to introduce the zoning concept and process. As a result, WCS zoning technicians are now working with the communities establishing agriculture zones. Suggestions from the community leaders include requests for frequent visits of OCP educators in the area and for educational material regarding hunting regulations in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
Even though these meetings were successful, the team again encountered very bad road conditions, especially during the rainy season, as well as suspicious deployment of army troops as challenges. The Okapi Conservation Project education team will continue to focus their work in the northern sector, despite the distance from the project’s Epulu headquarters, which hampers communication and travel.