Conserving DRC's flagship species and habitats
Conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been severely constrained by three successive decades of dictatorial rule, economic collapse and armed conflict.
Virunga National Park is the oldest park in Africa and contains the greatest diversity of habitats and vertebrate species of any of the continent's protected areas.
ZSL has been working since 2001 to rebuild the capacity of the Congolese conservation authority, ICCN, to manage Virunga National Park. Following surveys confirming the continued persistence of a small but threatened population of the elusive okapi in the forests of northern Virunga National Park, ZSL is now working to conserve the species across its range.
Rehabilitating Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park was Africa's first natural World Heritage Site, but due to ongoing civil conflict it was relisted as a World Heritage Site in Danger in 1994. ZSL is supporting ICCN to restore Virunga's integrity to benefit DRC's economic development and its myriad species.
Conserving okapi across its range
A joint ZSL and ICCN survey in 2008 captured landmark camera trap pictures of the okapi, confirming its continued persistence in Virunga National Park despite the conflict.
In 2010 ZSL instigated a new collaborative project to conserve the okapi across its range. Working with local and international partners, this project is compiling historical data, carrying out new surveys where information is lacking, training ICCN staff to monitor okapi and developing an action plan to conserve the species.
The elusive 'forest giraffe'
The okapi is a close relative of the giraffe, endemic to the tropical forests of central and north-eastern DRC. The species is the national symbol of DRC but was unknown to science until it was formally described at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London in 1901.
Although the okapi has full legal protection, it is threatened by hunting and habitat loss. However, a lack of accurate and up to date information hinders efforts to conserve the species.