The world celebrates World Okapi Day on October 18 every year. This is an opportunity to raise awareness not only about the existence of this endemic species in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also to raise funds for the protection of this rare animal.

The authors of the children’s book “Meeting the Okapi” went to the Maryland Zoo, one of the zoos in the United States where visitors can see an okapi.

The Okapi lives in a part of the country plagued by violence from armed groups, deforestation, and the illegal exploitation of minerals in their natural environment.

Askari in Maryland

The authors of the children’s book, “Meeting the Okapi,” Julie Ilondo Nguini and Sylvie Munanga, were able to see Askari, the Okapi of Maryland. He was shy, alone in his corner, picking leaves with his long black tongue.

Askari was eating peacefully, occasionally lifting his left leg. He practically turned his back on the visitors, revealing his beautiful legs with white stripes.

Askari had graceful gestures. He took all his time, sometimes stopping to look on the other side of the enclosure or perhaps just to catch his breath. He had not moved from his “dining room”.

Fascinated by its beauty, calm, and grace, visitors stopped to look at it and kept asking, “What is this animal?”

The authors replied proudly “This is an Okapi, he is from the Congo, from our mother country.” The visitors nodded, smiled, scrutinized the map and the panels explaining the origin of Askari, took photos, and went away, not without throwing a last look at a totally indifferent Askari.

Askari is housed right next to its cousins, the giraffes.

Maryland zoo

The other zoos around the world also shared photos of the okapi to celebrate this day. You could see the photos of Nia Nia at the Chester Zoo Twitter account, those of Mpangi at the San Diego Zoo Twitter account, those of Desi, Niko, Ikenge, Uche, and Kilua at the Dallas Zoo, those of Jackson and Opey in Los Angeles, those of Zambezi at the Memphis Zoo, to name a few.

It should be noted that Okapis can be found in zoos in the United States, Belgium, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Japan, Holland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Poland.

In the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Ituri, various manifestations have been observed around the reserve. The particularity this year is that there were more people involved in the celebration of this day dedicated to the Okapi, thanks in particular to the financial contribution of certain zoos which also shelter okapis.

Some videos of the celebration of this day in Epulu.

The first day of the Okapi was celebrated on October 18, 2016. The Okapi has been declared a protected animal by the Congolese law since 1933 and has been considered endangered since 2013. The Okapi’s wildlife reserve, which constitutes 1/5 of the Equatorial forest and has about 1/6 of the Okapi population, is a protected area and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In order to participate in the protection of the Okapi, the Okapi Conservation Project encourages, in particular, the recycling of old telephones because they contain coltan. Recycling them would help to exploit the natural habitat of the Okapi less. Talk about the Okapi around you and contribute on the Okapi Conservation Project website.

You can also buy a copy of the book “Meeting the Okapi”. The Okapi Conservation Project benefits from 10% of sales.

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