On June 24, a group of armed rebels attacked the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, situated in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing seven park staff- and their family members. Others were taken hostage or are unaccounted for. The entire Reserve infrastructure was destroyed and the 15 okapi of the Epulu Breeding and Research Station were all killed. Epulu plays a central role in protecting the future of the okapi by serving as a reservoir for the infusion of new genetic stock into okapi populations in global conservation programmes.
The Reserve, inscribed on the list of World Heritage in Danger since 1997, is home to about 5,000 okapi, the rare giraffe-like forest creature, as well as significant populations of leopard, elephant, chimpanzee and crocodile. Its birdlife makes it one of the most important sites for bird conservation in mainland Africa and nomadic Mbuti pygmies life within the Reserve.
The RRF (Rapid Response Facility) programme received an application from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s DRC programme, which is active at the site, seeking funds to resume critical functions at the Reserve headquarters. The RRF was pleased to respond positively and in the quickest time since the Facility was created in 2006 with the decision being made to award funds on the same day that a final version of the application was received. This grant is of US$ 30,000, which represents the highest possible amount that can be donated by the RRF programme.
The funds awarded by the RRF will contribute towards evaluating the needs of the DRC’s national protected areas authority, l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, in the aftermath of this crisis, as well as re-instituting the most fundamental activities at Epulu in terms of site administration and Reserve protection. Lastly the funds will help to support the guards and families whose lives have been uprooted by this tragic event.
Additionally to the support provided through the RRF grant, in conjunction with UNESCO the RRF has launched an emergency appeal to raise extra public funds to support this site as it recovers from the rebel attack.
The objective of this appeal is to raise $120,000 which is the amount estimated as necessary to help the families of the victims and repair the Reserve’s headquarters.
As of today, the donations have only reached 23,179£ which represents 28% of the amount needed for the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Therefore, the fundraising campaign has been extended until July 31. All the proceeds from this appeal will be given to the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society.