Senseless Killings in a Congolese Wildlife Reserve

June 29, 2012

Bandits murdered 7 people and 14 okapis when they attacked the village of Epulu and Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Although okapis share physical similarities to zebras, they are more closely related to giraffes.

On June 24, bandits raided the village of Epulu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing seven people and fourteen okapis. Two of the victims were guards for the Okapi Faunal Reserve, a conservation area WCS helped to create in 1992.

Home to a captive breeding program, the reserve supports the world’s largest population of okapi, sometimes called the “rainforest giraffe,” a shy mammal endemic to the country. In addition, it shelters 4,500 eastern chimpanzees and the DRC’s largest population of African forest elephants. The Mbuti people, the largest community of hunter-gatherers in Africa, also live inside the park.

The DRC national army (FARDC) and UN peacekeeping forces have reestablished control, and all WCS staff members working in the reserve are safe and in good health. But the attacks raise new concerns about future threats to safety and conservation.

John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science, says, "We are thankful to the U.S. and U.N. officials who have helped keep us informed as we have worked to account for our colleagues. But we are deeply grieved for the Congolese park service and the families who were tragically killed or harmed." 

“The okapi were ambassadors for all wildlife in the forest," says Richard Tshombe, WCS DRC Country Director, "The attacks and killings of the people and wildlife are senseless and brutal. We will work with our partners to restore this important conservation project. 

How You Can Help

WCS is providing emergency support to park staff and local people affected by the raid. Please consider making a tax-deductable donation to help to rebuild the park headquarters destroyed in the attack.

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For further information, read our press release.

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