Tuesday, June 26, 2012

D.R. Congo: Simba Rebels Attack Okapi Wildlife Reserve

SOURCE Okapi Conservation Project
Early in the morning on Sunday, Simba rebels (Mai Mai) attacked the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and headquarters for the Okapi Wildlife Reserve near the village of Epulu in the northeastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the Okapi Conservation Project, at least five guards were killed, and destruction of buildings and looting has occurred. Fighting his way past the rebels, the reserve's Conservator Gishlain Somba escaped and walked through the night to Mambassa, where he is coordinating with the Congolese Army (FARDC) being deployed to the area, along with top rangers from Virunga National Park.

"We are gravely concerned about the fate of our 100 staff members and the 14 okapi at the breeding and research station," said John Lukas, Founder of the Okapi Conservation Project. "As soon as the area is safe, we will go and provide whatever help we can."

The Okapi is the flagship species for one of the most biologically diverse spots on Earth—the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri Rainforest. Today, there are approximately only 10,000 – 20,000 okapi in the wild.