Since 2016, 18th of October has been designated as World Okapi Day by the Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The focus of the day is to honor this unique animal and use it as a symbol of conservation for the entire forest environment in which it dwells. Eight towns around the Okapi Wildlife Reserve have fun and exciting events planned, along with instructional messaging aimed at important demographics including children, women, and local communities.

The Northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa is home to the okapi, often referred to as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe, or zebra giraffe. Even though the okapi resembles a zebra in appearance, it is actually more likely to be related to a giraffe hence the name “forest giraffe”. Due to challenges across its range in the DR Congo, including as illicit poaching, forest degradation, slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal gold mining, and human encroachment, the species is presently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Although the number of Okapi in the wild is currently unclear, it may only be a small number (22,000).


Despite being brutally attacked at its offices in 2012, the Okapi Conservation Project, which was founded in 1987, is still in operation. It sustains the 5,000 okapis that call the Itiru Forest's Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage Site, home. In order to support the rangers who, monitor the reserve and other places frequented by okapi, the Okapi Conservation Project collaborates with the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature. The rangers' responsibilities also include keeping armed poachers from killing okapis and keeping an eye on agricultural development that can damage okapi habitats. In addition, IUCN has collaborated with other groups, such as the Zoological Society of London, to put into action a 10-year plan to curtail unlawful behavior that would lead to the okapi's extinction.


The okapi, which was not discovered by westerners until 1901, is revered as a cultural icon in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is protected as an umbrella species for the region's rich biodiversity. This includes elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas that also live in the okapi's habitat.

About the Author: Iman Haroon is a graduate from Government College Women University Sialkot, Pakistan. She has done her Bachelors in Environmental Science and is a green blogger who has volunteered to write for TENL in order to raise environmental awareness.