Okapi Conservation Project
October 10, 2020
9:45 am PDT
Few animals look as mythological as the okapi, a reclusive species found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To prevent this rare animal from disappearing, the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) monitors their small population in Okapi Wildlife Reserve. OCP also works with authorities to tackle threats to okapi and their habitat, such as illegal mining and logging, bushmeat poaching, and harmful agricultural development. To cultivate pride and inspire the next generation of okapi protectors, OCP runs educational programs for children and offers community assistance to the people who share land with okapi on the reserve.
John Lukas has over 40 years of experience in holistic wildlife conservation. He received his master’s in Zoology from Northeastern University and spent 30 years at the helm of White Oak Conservation Center. In 1987, John founded the Okapi Conservation Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. John is the founding member and president of the International Rhino Foundation, a founding board member of the Wildlife Conservation Network, a director of the Tusk Trust, and an advisor for the Conservation Centers for Species Survival. He also serves on the IUCN species specialist groups for giraffe and okapi.
Berce N'safuansa is the Program Manager for the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP). Berce facilitates the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all OCP's programs, including Agroforestry, Education, Maintenance and Logistics. Though he has only worked full time for OCP since 2019, he’s had a passion and dedication for protecting okapi since childhood. After the early passing of his father, Jean N'lamba, who helped start OCP in 1987, Berce wished to carry on his father's legacy. He believes involving communities is the key to a successful conservation program and he regularly meets with community members, leaders, and local chiefs to ensure OCP programs are meeting the needs of the community.
Jean Paul M'monga Kiete
Jean Paul M'monga Kiete (M'monga) is the Education Coordinator for the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP). He implements all educational activities in and around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve to ensure communities understand the importance of protecting the forest. Before joining OCP, he was an EcoGuard for the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN). He was a dedicated patrol leader, tourist guide, and head of the conservation law enforcement monitoring unit within the Reserve. M’monga also serves as OCP's liaison to ICCN in Epulu. He believes education is the first step in ensuring okapi remain protected and his education team leads the expansion of our programs with new communities. He is a 2010 WCN Scholar and completed his graduate program in Bukavu Rural Development College.
Photography credit: Okapi Conservation Project