09.07.2012 - UNESCOPRESS

14th Okapi dies of gunshot injuries sustained during poacher attack on Okapi Wildlife Reserve (DRC)

UNESCO has just learned that a 14th okapi died of injuries sustained during the attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage site in Epulu in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Faida the okapi was hit by three bullets on 24 June when poachers armed with AK47 rifles attacked the facility and killed seven people, including two rangers.

Efforts to save Faida failed and she died a little more than a week after 13 other okapi were killed by poachers who raided the reserve looking for elephant tusks.

UNESCO and the nongovernmental organization Fauna and Flora International are launching an emergency appeal to support the staff and rebuild the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve which was severely damaged during the raid which left seven people, including two rangers dead.

The appeal hopes to raise $120,000 by 20 July to help the families of the victims and repair the Reserve’s headquarters.

The attackers torched buildings and destroyed equipment. Unless the facility can be restored very soon, these poachers will have met their objective; to move freely about the reserve in their search for elephant tusks.

Funds from the campaign will be used to protect its elephants, whose population has been declining rapidly because of the ivory poaching. They will also help to re-establish the Reserve’s successful okapi breeding programme, which has played a critical role in preserving the gene pool of this rare forest giraffe. Perhaps most importantly, the families of those who were killed will be supported.

The appeal for funds is conducted as part of the Rapid Response Facility created by UNESCO and Fauna and Flora International to raise financial assistance for conservation emergencies.

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