The Okapi – a national symbol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as the “forest giraffe” is now on the brink of extinction, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN reports serious declines in the population of the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), a close relative of the giraffe, unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The species is now Endangered, only one step away from the highest risk of extinction, 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 . “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.”