Okapis in the Wild


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Geographic Range in Africa:

Okapis are found only in the tropical forests of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the African continent.They prefer altitudes between 500 and 1,000 m, although they may venture above 1,000 m in the eastern rainforests. One sighting occurred at 1,450 m on Mt. Hoyo, in the upper Ituri Rainforest. The range of the okapi is limited by high forests to the east, swamp forests below 500 m to the west, savannas of the Sahel/Soudan to the north, and open woodlands to the south. Okapis are most common in the Wamba and Epulu areas (Bodmer 1992).

The most recent sighting of an okapi in the wild was in September 2008. This is more than 50 years since any previous sighting. Camera traps set by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in the Virunga National Park captured rare pictures of wild okapi. The sightings prove the species is surviving in the jungle despite years of civil conflict. Their abundance in the park is unknown as access to the forests of DRC is limited by civil conflict and poor infrastructure, making survey work difficult.

Okapis in the wild:

Although okapis are not classified as endangered, they are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. Conservation work in the Congo includes the continuing study of okapi behavior, which led to the creation in 1992 of the Okapi Wildlife Resere. The 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 a size of approx 14,000 km², it covers apout one fifth of the area of the forest. The reserve is home to many other rain forest animals and plant species.

As of 1996, the number of okapis in the Reserve was estimated at about 5000, out of a global population of around 10,000–20,000.

Bodmer, R.E., and G.B. Rabb. 1992. Okapia johnstoni. Mamm. Species, 422:1-8


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