Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Okapi Wildlife Reserve encompasses 13,700 square kilometers of the Ituri Forest – one of the most important centers of plant and animal diversity in Africa – in the northeastern portion of the DRC. The Reserve established in 1992 and listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996, helps protect the habitat of the okapi and preserve rare plant and animal life, as well as the lifestyle and culture of indigenous people.

okapi-wildlife-reserveOkapi Wildlife Reserve contains threatened species of primates and birds and about 5,000 of the estimated 30,000 okapi surviving in the wild. It also has some dramatic scenery, including waterfalls on the Ituri and Epulu rivers. The reserve is inhabited by traditional nomadic pygmy Mbuti and Efe hunters.

The largest population of okapi, forest elephants, and chimpanzees in DRC, along with 13 species of primates, leopard, forest buffalo, bongo antelope, water chevrotain, and a wide variety of birds and insects, are among the wildlife harbored in the Reserve.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve contains flora of outstanding diversity and provides refuge to numerous endemic and threatened species, including one-sixth of the existing Okapi population. The Reserve protects one-fifth of the Ituri forest, a Pleistocene refuge dominated by dense evergreen Mbau and humid semi-evergreen forests, combined with swamp forests that grow alongside the waterways, and clearings called locally edos and inselbergs.

The Reserve contains 101 mammal species and 376 species of documented birds. The population of the endemic species of Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), a forest giraffe, is estimated at 5,000 individuals. Among the endemic mammals of the forest in the north-east of the DRC identified in the Reserve, are the aquatic genet (Osbornictis piscivora) and the giant genet (Genetta victoriae). The Reserve provides refuge to 17 species of primates (including 13 diurnal and 4 nocturnal), the highest number for an African forest, including 7,500 chimpanzees.

It also contains one of the most diverse populations of forest ongulates with 14 species, including six types of cephalophus. It also provides refuge to the largest population of forest elephants ((Loxodonta africana cyclotis) still present in eastern DRC, estimated at 7,500 individuals, and it is important for the conservation of other forest species such as the bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), the dwarf antelope (Neotragus batesi), the water chevratain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), the forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus) and the giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni). It is also documented as one of the most important protected areas in Africa for the conservation of birds, with the presence of numerous emblematic species such as the Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis), as well as numerous endemic species in eastern DRC.

The forests of the Reserve are among the best preserved in the Congo Basin and its area is considered sufficient to maintain its wildlife. The Reserve is part of a larger forestry area, that of Ituri, which remains almost untouched by logging and agricultural activities.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve contains a large indigenous population, the Mbuti and Efe pygmies, and the forest ecosystem is essential for both their economic and cultural requirements. The property is protected under a Wildlife Reserve statute.