Monday, December 27, 2010

Involving Local Communities in Antipoaching Campaign

A joint mission with the Okapi Conservation Project Education team and the Community Conservation Unit of Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) recently traveled to the North of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. They held meetings with Wamba and Watsa Territory officials, police, army, customary leaders, school directors and church leaders. Girls and boys were selected from all secondary schools to participate in soccer competitions related to the events.

The intent of the meetings included: recognition of ICCN as public institution involved with conservation in the region; participants support for ICCN anti-poaching campaigns; acceptance of local customary leaders to participate in joint public awareness missions; establishment of an ICCN guard base camp near Wamba; and need for collaboration with the court in Isiro to punish arrested poachers according to conservation laws.

In recent years the Okapi Conservation Project education team has been working in the northern region of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve under challenging environments, including very difficult travel conditions on poor roads. This mission is a great success for the future integrity of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, establishing critical lines of communication, collaboration and cooperation.

Marcel Enckoto, Assistant Director, Okapi Conservation Project

Friday, December 10, 2010

ICCN Ranger Graduation

The Okapi Conservation Project is committed to helping the Congolese protect their wildlife and forests. We provide special training opportunities for members of the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), who are responsible for the management of wildlife and protected areas in the Congo. ICCN rangers Somba and Dugira recently completed a year-long wildlife management and conservation course at Southern Africa Wildlife College (SAWC) based in the Rep. of South Africa. The well-respected SAWC courses immerse students in theoretical, practical and technical conservation studies. The two rangers, and their classmates from around Africa participated and completed the various SAWC classes and home studies and recently graduated. They now return to Epulu with the responsibility of sharing their recently gained knowledge with their ICCN ranger colleagues working in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, and leading efforts to conserve the wildlife of the Ituri Forest. The opportunity to attend the SAWC was provided through a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meet Kenji Ishiwada

Kenji Ishiwada is a keeper at the Kanazawa Zoo in Japan and was an okapi keeper at Zoorasia in Yokohama, Japan when they first received okapi many years ago. Kenji and his family have visited White Oak Conservation Center many times, and continues to support the Okapi Conservation Project, through his Group of Okapi, of which he is honorary president. He has also written a book about the okapi and he continues to provide annual support for the Okapi Conservation Project as one of our dedicated long term friends. Kenji responded to our questions in a recent interview.

What is the name of your conservation organization?

I donate to Okapi project personally, so I do not belong to any main conservation organization. However, Yokohama Zoological Gardens “Zoorasia” which I worked for as a keeper helped me to raise donations.

What is your role or title, and who are the members? 

My current tile at work is a keeper in Kanazawa Zoological Gardens in Yokohama. However, there is a community called “Group of Okapi” (Group of Okapi is a group of people who love okapi and many other wildlife including the environment around it) and I have provided some okapi photos that I took to help them to create postcards. The Group of Okapi has also donated $500 in the past. I was given a title of honorary president of the group, but I actually do not do much work for the group.

We know that you create educational materials and have written an okapi book but what sorts of other projects does your conservation organization?

In addition to the activities above, I made Okapi postcards at my own expense about 10 years ago. The postcards were sold to many people including staff in Japanese zoos and that income let me donate $10.000 to the Okapi project. The next year, Yokohama Zoological Gardens “Zoorasia” gave me a permission to sell the postcards to the visitors of the zoo as a charity and donated all the expense which was eventually $2000. I was also going to donate if I had royalties from my book, but it has not sold very well.  

Is it difficult to get people in Japan interested in okapi? Are the okapi popular in Japanese zoos?

I believe that recognition of species okapi has been raised. In Yokohama, okapis are very popular animals. Since okapis Layla and Kianga came to Japan, the species has become more famous in Japan. Okapi are kept in only 2 institutions in Tokyo and Yokohama in our country. As Tokyo and Yokohama are closely located cities, I think more people will get interested in the animal if okapi were kept in different part of Japan.

By the way, Kanazawa Zoological Gardens which I currently work for is planning to have okapi either this year or next year. I will make a lot of efforts to let visitors to get interested in okapi, when they arrive.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bringing School Children to the Okapi Reserve

School conferences continue to grow as effective tools to share our conservation messages among the youth (Ituri Forest). More schools outside the Ituri landscape are growing interest to visit the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, after they hear about it from their colleagues. This year, the education program has organized many school visits. We have provided guided tours of the Reserve, the pygmy (forest people) camps and the herbarium to 4 secondary schools and 1 high school. The secondary schools are located in Beni, Oicha and Butembo, and the high school is located in Beni as well.

Their teachers confirm that all information they receive is necessary and adds to their geography and other natural science lessons.

However, these trips are initiated by students who have very limited budgets. With the support of our donors, GIC helps the youth in terms of accommodations, additional fuel for transport and eventually food.



Friday, May 21, 2010

Compelling Quotes about the OCP Education Team

Traveling throughout the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, often on bicycles and motorcycles, and working in small groups, the education team brings information to the Reserve's residents on sustainable use of their natural resources, ways to share those resources with wildlife to the benefit of all, and to generally improve the quality of life of the people of the Ituri Forest.

“We now realize that, if these threats are not tackled, our children will be poorer than ourselves”, people reported to GIC educator TOLIBA in Niania.

"We appreciate the support of your organization (GIC) to allow you come this far (to Isiro) on a very bad road to teach us about conservation. You should come back regularly, even though it is hard and costly”, said Thomas MISSA, Police Commander in Isiro.

“We need conservation lesson brochures you produced for all our primary schools, because their help teachers prepare their lessons and make up the mind of our children for their future responsibility on nature”, said Atilite BASONGA, a school director in Isiro.

“Bring more topics for radio programs, even though they are prepared in Kiswahili, as we are also experiencing more people from Kivu in this area”, said Michel ATONGBOA, Radio Nava Director.

“The last conference topic was very informative; we decided to repeat it on our radio programs in Mambasa”, said Nassor KABALA, Mambasa Radio Speaker.

    April Education Update from OCP

    Dear Friends,

    The Epulu team organized public awareness focus group discussion with a total of 121 women in 5 different villages on their role in natural resource utilization. I exchanged in Bunia with the District School Inspector and wait for written comments on our conservation lesson brochure for primary schools.

    Next educational activities in April include UNESCO-funded committee installation and training in Wamba, as well as a workshop in Mungbere, school conferences and seminar with officials in Isiro. I shall be out in the field as soon as I finish the French version of the quarterly report (probably from April 10 to 30).

    Marcel Enckoto, GIC Okapi Conservation Project Assistant Director

    May Update From the OCP Education Team

    From April 15 to May 14, 2010, the education team deployed allover the Ituri landscape to organize meetings with local committees for natural resource monitoring, conferences in secondary schools and seminar with district officials.

    GIC Assistant Director Marcel Enckoto traveled with ICCN Community Conservation Officer Abedi SELEMANI to Wamba. They screened and trained Mahaa, Malamba and Bafwakoy community representatives, before providing their leaders with new motorbikes.

    Then, Mr. Marcel proceeded to Isiro together with the Wamba-based education team. They organized conferences in 17 secondary schools with an attendance of 1080 students and a seminar with 123 district officials and local institution representatives, in the parish hall

    In the meantime, the Niania-based education team distributed OWR 2010 calendars in all offices and shops from Niania to Bafwasende, before sitting for conferences in 4 local secondary schools.

    This huge sensitization campaign focused on the importance of local committees to help the community leaders monitor the utilization of their natural resources and report to ICCN, the initiation of local community development actions, the importance of the Ituri landscape as well as the world heritage status of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

    As most conferences and the seminar were powepoint-illustrated on LCD Projector, the public was fascinated by the biodiversity on one hand, but sorrowful for the upgrading illegal activities, including slash and burn agriculture, bush meat trade, poaching, mining, timber logging and immigration on the other hand.

    All local radio stations, including Mambasa, Wamba and Isiro were mobilized for the event.

    Scheduled education trips will be completed before end of June. The Mambasa team will work jointly with WCS Forestry for conferences, the Niania team will assess the impact of incoming mining companies in the area, the Epulu team will assess immigration on the Banana-Bafwakoa sector and Marcel will move again with Selemani to Mungbere to struggle for the organization of local committees in the 2 Watsa Territory communities.

    Okapi Conservation Project Assistant Director