Persistence of Biodiversity in Conflict Zones
Virunga’s unique forest biodiversity is still persisting despite the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Camera trap image of an Okapi in the DRC ZSL has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2001 to restore the integrity of Virunga National Park following prolonged conflict in the region. The park is home to the okapi, an elusive rainforest giraffid that is threatened by habitat loss and hunting for its meat and skin. In 2008, a joint ZSL/Institut Congolese pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) team obtained the first camera trap pictures of okapi in the wild, and in 2009, the US Fish and Wildlife Service funded ZSL to build capacity for wildlife monitoring and management. ZSL trained ICCN rangers in camera trapping, reconnaissance surveys and community-based conservation, and supported surveys and patrols. Despite a difficult security situation preventing access to areas of the park for several months, camera trap surveys captured some superb new images of okapi, alongside a host of other species, including chimpanzee, galago, honey badger, aardvark, bongo, duikers, giant hog and elephant shrew, demonstrating that Virunga’s unique forest biodiversity is still persisting despite the conflict.
Okapi are particularly special for ZSL. The species was first described at a meeting of the Society in 1901, and it remains a much-loved species at ZSL London Zoo. It is therefore fitting that ZSL has now obtained funding from the UK’s Darwin Initiative to expand its work with a new three-year project, bringing together 13 partners to conserve the okapi across its range.