Okapi Wildlife Sanctuary (World Heritage)

Okapi Wildlife Sanctuary (World Heritage)

The approximately 13,800 km² large okapi animal sanctuary has the highest density of the ungulates, which were only discovered by Sir Harry Johnston in 1901 and are related to the long-necked giraffes. The main scenic attraction of the park, which has been on the red list since 1997, are the waterfalls of the Epulu River.

Okapi Sanctuary: Facts

Official title: Okapi sanctuary
Natural monument: 1952 Establishment of a wildlife sanctuary for breeding okapis, since 1992 establishment of the sanctuary with an area of ​​13,726.25 km²; Heights between 500 and 1000 m; average rainfall of up to 1680 mm / year; partially populated by pygmies (Mbuti / Bambuti) and Bantu
Continent: Africa
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo
Location: in the Ituri Forest, between the Ituri and Nepoko rivers, northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Appointment: 1996; on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger since 1997 due to commercial poaching
Meaning: extraordinary endemism as well as highest density of okapis worldwide
Flora and fauna: 15% of all species present only here; 52 species of mammals such as the endemic okapi with an estimated population of 5000 individuals, the African elephant with an estimated 6700 individuals, also the endemic African stag piglet, also the small ram, giant pangolin, leopard, African porcupine, diadem, bearded and brazzamat, red colobus monkey, chimpanzee; in the Ituri Forest, the largest variety of duiker species in Africa such as yellow-bridge duiker, blue duiker, black-fronted duiker and white-bellied duiker; Reptiles such as crocodile and crocodile; proven 329 bird species such as long-tailed goshawk, black-hooded fowl and black guinea fowl, as well as bush claw and Congo peacock

Sensations in the Ituri forest

It is astonishing that such a large animal species as the long-legged okapi, which at first glance suggests a relationship with giraffes, has been able to hide itself in the deep rainforest for so long from the “discovery” by Europeans, even though itself the early colonizers tried to take stock of the large animals of Africa. The nature-loving Sir Harry Johnston, Governor of the British Protectorate Uganda, had noticed a description of catching a kind of horse or donkey in pit pits while studying the Africa explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, which appeared in German in 1890. According to Stanley, this animal, which the Bambuti resident in the Ituri Forest chase after, is grazed on the legs and legs like a zebra. Incidentally, his notes were also correct with regard to the close relationship to the giraffes, although the British traveler to Africa had never seen a live okapi in the forest. The German Africa explorer Dr. Georg August Schweinfurth, on the other hand, although he had doubts about his assignment, assigned the red-brown pieces of fur with white stripes to the bushbuck in 1869 and 1871. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that researchers realized that the okapi was by no means a horse, but rather a cloven-hoofed okapi because of the cleft hooves. The name Equus johnstoni, which was prematurely given in honor of the incumbent governor of Uganda, had to be given up again. The generic name was changed to Okapia, in the Bambuti language the word for pitfall.

Stanley’s described kinship between okapi and giraffe seems convincing, since in fact the long neck and sloping back are typical giraffe features. This also applies to the long tongue with which okapis brush leaves, buds and delicate shoots from the branches. Okapis find their food primarily on the jungle bushes that grow along the many small watercourses in the Ituri forest.

For decades, okapis, which have been strictly protected since 1933, were used as state gifts in the service of diplomacy. The catching station set up specifically for this purpose has now fallen into disrepair and has been repossessed by the jungle.

Interestingly, another rare animal species lives in the immediate vicinity of the “forest giraffe”. This was also discovered very late and was difficult to classify in the existing zoological system: the Congo peacock defined by findjobdescriptions. In 1913, while visiting the village of Avakubi, the American ornithologist James Chapin accidentally discovered feathers in the headdress of an elder of the Bambuti, the indigenous people of this forest, who were often disrespectfully referred to as jungle dwarfs. More than two decades later, in the Congo Museum in Tervuren near Brussels – today’s Central African Museum – Chapin found two specimens of a chicken-like bird, which were known as the young of the ear peacock. After this “find” there was no doubt for the American ornithologist that

The bird had distinct features of both a peacock and a guinea fowl. Since there was no comparable bird in the rest of Africa, it made sense to name the newly discovered species “Congo peacock”. The scientific name is a successful compromise: Afropavo kongensis. Because of the difficult classification in the zoological system between peacock and guinea fowl, the subfamily Congo peacock, which consists of only one genus and one species, the Congo peacock, had to be created. The purple and green colored Congo peacocks live in monogamy and are not nearly as colorful as their Asian relatives. Only during the mating season does the rooster “put on additional color” when its throat turns fiery red. During courtship, the rooster turns a wheel like a real peacock and lowers its wings.

There are now plans to declare the entire protected area a national park. A 50 km wide buffer zone around the entire animal protection area has already been defined.

Okapi Wildlife Sanctuary (World Heritage)

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