Okapi wildlife reserve is located in the Northeastern wing of Democratic Republic of Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve covers almost 1/5 of the Ituri forest. It is also part of Africa’s largest drainage system, the mighty Congo River. In addition to 30,000 endemic okapis dwelling in the Reserve, the forest is a home to over five thousand primate species. Okapi Wildlife Reserve is blessed, with beautiful scenery among which includes waterfalls on rivers, Ituri and Epulu. The traditional nomadic pygmy Efe and Mbuti hunters are inhabitants of the area.

The wildlife reserve is home to a multitude of floral species in addition to several endemic and threatened species that find their being here. Part of the Ituri forest is under the reserve’s protection in addition to 1/6 of the existing okapi population worldwide. The dense evergreen “Mbau” dominates a Pleistocene refuge and forests, which are semi-green in nature; it is also in combination with swamp forests (these usually grow in nearby waterways) and clearings commonly known by their local name, “edos”.

The reserve was established in the year 1992 and declared a World Heritage site later in 1996, Okapi wildlife Reserve is a habitat not only to okapi and some of the world’s rarest flora species, but also hospitable indigenous people and a number of other animal species. Okapi Wildlife Reserve sits on an area spanning 13,700 square kilometers, which is half of the total area of Yellowstone national park. Water chevrotain, bongo antelopes, forest buffalos, forest elephants, chimpanzees, variety of insects and several bird species make up Okapi Wildlife Reserve’s rich biodiversity, which is the logic behind its unending beauty.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Ituri Forest

This forest acts as a cultural center for one of the true forest people left on earth; the Efe and Mbuti pygmies who are specialists in hunting and gathering in the deepest parts of the forests. These have been holding unique cultural traditions and lifestyles for centuries. The Efe and Mbuti pygmies participate in a harmonious barter trade with neighboring communities such as Bantu cultivators, something that has enabled their harmonious co-existence.

The okapi

Scientifically referred to as “Okapia johnstoni or forest giraffe”, okapi is one of the oldest mammals left on earth. To the western parts of the world, okapi is only known since the early 20th century. It is almost impossible to see okapi in the wild due to its shyness, elusiveness and gentleness. It has remarkable natural defenses against predators. Okapi is of significant national and cultural importance to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is endemic to the country and has been protected since the year 1933.

Okapi has suffered perilous and precipitous decline in numbers due to deforestation, mining and poaching. According to the 2013 Conservation Strategy Workshop, Okapi population had plummeted more than fifty percent in a period of three generations. Findings later officially declared okapi “endangered” by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Okapi formerly belonged to the Red List of near Threatened Species.

Facts about the Okapi

Okapi’s dark-blue prehensile tongues have length of about eighteen inches. They use their tongues to stripe leaves from plants and to groom themselves. Okapis have a stripped coat, which enables them blend in the light shafts produced by tree canopies because of precipitation and little light. This is common within the equatorial rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Okapi’s oily and velvety fur helps them in repelling water. Okapis have the ability to live up to the age of thirty.

Initially, due to their striped coat, okapi were believed to be related to zebras until it was discovered later that they are instead more related to giraffes. Males have small horns covered in skin and fur and they are one hundred pounds less than females.

Okapi have scent glands on each foot which are used in marking their territories wherever they go. Compared to males who patrol up to 4kmterritories, female territories are somewhat smaller (0.8 square kilometers). It is possible for okapi calves to stay in one place for the first 6-9 weeks after their birth. It is also possible for them not to defecate for sixty days while trying to avoid allowing predators a chance to trace them using their dungs’ scent.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Okapis feed in the morning and evening hours, therefore they are diurnal species. In order to reach water points, okapi like giraffes must spread their legs. Like human fingerprints, okapi have unique stripe patterns, which are commonly used by calves in identifying their mothers. It is true that okapis eat toxic fungi, fruits and leaves and then accompany them with charcoal and clay to detoxify them and extract the needed minerals from the diet. Only on rare occasions have okapis been seen giving birth to more than one offspring.

Okapi hardly stay in social groups except when it is time for mating or mother-calf pair. They have an incredible hearing capability to the extent that they can communicate at low frequencies without being recognized by predators like leopards, humans or lions.

book a safari