Okapi Wildlife Reserve
- The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a World Heritage Site in the Ituri Forest in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the borders with Sudan and Uganda. At approximately 14,000 km², it covers approximately one fifth of the area of the forest.
- As implied by the name, the reserve is home to many okapis. As of 1996, the number was estimated at about 3900–6350, out of a global population of around 10,000–20,000. It is also the location of the Epulu Conservation and Research Center, on the Epulu River. This facility dates back to 1928 when the camp was founded by American anthropologist Patrick Putnam as a capture station, where wild okapis were captured and sent to American and European zoos. It still serves that function today, albeit with very different methodology. Okapis are captured, and then bred in captivity, and then only these offspring are sent to zoos, as it has been found that they have a much lower chance of survival. Even so, very few are now exported — only the minimum number necessary to ensure genetic viability of the captive population. The center also carries out much important research and conservation work.
- In addition to the okapis, the wildlife reserve is also home to many other interesting or endangered animals, such as the forest elephant, and at least 13 species of anthropoid primates. Nomadic Mbuti pygmies and indigenous Bantu farmers also live within the reserve.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve occupies about one-fifth of the Ituri forest in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo river basin, of which the reserve and forest are a part, is one of the largest drainage systems in Africa. The 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.
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