Saturday, 30 November 2013

Forest giraffe joins growing number of threatened species

November 2013: The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, and the national symbol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is now on the brink of extinction the IUCN has declared in its latest red list update. 

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a close relative of the giraffe and unique to the rainforests of the DRC. It has been listed by the IUCN as Endangered, only one step away from the highest risk of extinction, Critically Endangered, with numbers dwindling across its range. Poaching and habitat loss, as well as the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners, are the principal threats to its survival. 

“The Okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol – it even features on the Congolese franc banknotes,” says Dr Noëlle Kümpel co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group and manager of ZSL’s range-wide okapi conservation project. “Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of Okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin. Supporting government efforts to tackle the civil conflict and extreme poverty in the region are critical to securing its survival.” 

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