NEWS + DISPATCHES
may 10 // empowering WOMEN OF THE RESERVE
In conducting seminars with women's associations throughout the Reserve, OCP visited five thriving local businesses started by women whom the organization had given sewing machines. OCP also awarded money to two female students who assisted the organization for several years, to help cover their school fees. Across the board, community to community, the women have voiced their desire for a greater role in external meetings about conservation concerns.
Despite their gains and ongoing OCP support, the women of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve are in need of supplies vital to sustainability, like seeds and sewing machines.
JUNE 10 // PROGRESS, A YEAR ON
As the anniversary of the initial attack on Epulu Station approaches, photos taken by John Lukas, OCP President, shows progress in rehabilitating the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and surrounding village -- an effort which has faced, and withstood, the violence and instability in the region. The images show workers laying the foundation for new structures, and the main ICCN building, whose restored facade makes it ready, once again, for operations.
IN A PRE-DAWN RAID, JUNE 2012, the notorious poacher Paul "Morgan" Sadala and his band of Simba/Mai Mai rebels stormed the Epulu Station HQ of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo. When the smoke cleared, homes and buildings stood charred and looted; Station guards, villagers and fourteen ambassador okapi - the entire population at the Station - lay dead amid the ruin. Hostages in tow, Morgan and his men disappeared into the Ituri Forest.
Neither out of necessity nor greed, the attack was retaliation against decades of Okapi Conservation Project support for government efforts to control illegal activities within the Reserve. After years of relative calm in a region where stability is as elusive as the okapi itself, Epulu succumbed to violence.
Epulu has since begun to rebuild, with OCP heading efforts to restore infrastructure and commerce, support those who suffered injury or lost loved ones, and return to the community a sense of stability and progress.
Meanwhile, Morgan is at large, and with his rebels continues to wage a campaign of violence throughout Northeastern Congo. But their deeds, and OCP calls for action along with those of the international conservation community, have sparked unprecedented response. He has been driven from the Reserve and remains the focus of a national military manhunt.
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DECEMBER 17 // INFRASTRUCTURE
OCP facilities, including the bridge over the Epulu River, are nearly all repaired. Rebuilding of ICCN headquarters is planned to begin in January, with support from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
DECEMBER 1 // THIRD JOINT OPERATION LAUNCHES
On the verge of the dry season, FARDC soldiers and ICCN rangers launch a third joint operation deep into the forest outside of the Reserve to bring the last remaining rebels to justice.
NOVEMBER 1 // OCP OUTLOOK
OCP lays out plan - to be developed by end of 2012 and implemented in 2013 - to build better capacity within ICCN.
OCTOBER 5 // PROGRESS REPORT
ICCN reports they are in control of 70% of the Reserve.
Local government officials, police and FARDC troops shut down trade routes for bushmeat and ivory from the northeast sector of the Reserve, forcing poachers to abandon the area.
AUGUST 13 // MORGAN HITS AGAIN
Morgan and his men attack the village of Badengaido. Later in the day they loot a coach bus, and take 15 hostages. Morgan is wounded in the army's counter-attack, but manages to escape.
Paul "Morgan" Sadala
AUGUST 4 // MORGAN CAPTURED ... MORGAN ESCAPES
Morgan and 18 of his men are captured by the rival Jean Luc Mai Mai group, when they venture into North Kivu province. Taking advantage of a lag in response by the Congolese army, Morgan pays off his captors and escapes during the night.
JULY 22 // SUSPECTED MILITARY COLLUSION
Officials in Kinshasa launch investigation into military chain of command and the relationship between the Congolese army and rebel poachers.
JULY 14 // ASSESSMENT; PLAN TO REBUILD
John Lukas and Rosmarie Ruf meet with ICCN and OCP staff in Beni to formulate a plan to reestablish security and rebuild the Station and ICCN HQ.
The Epulu Station medical clinic reopens. Food rations are provided to OCP and ICCN staff and their families.
JULY 1 // HOSTAGES RELEASED
Morgan releases 45 hostages. Eleven remain captive.
JUNE 24, 2012 // THE ATTACK
The attack unfolds at 5 am. An hour-long firefight leaves ICCN rangers and several villagers dead. Over 50 hostages taken. At 10 am, the attackers slaughter the 14 okapi at the Station.
September 15 // CITES LISTS OKAPI
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement to ensure that trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival, lists okapi as a threatened species.
JANUARY 15 // kinshasa redoubles efforts AFTER NEW ATTACK
Following an attack by Morgan on the village of Zunguluka, January 5, that kills one ICCN ranger, Kamango Ntambwe, and leaves a number of FARDC and Mai Mai dead or injured, Congolese officials step up efforts to apprehend the poacher and his rebel gang. While OCP helps assist Ntambwe's family and coordinates relief for Zunguluka and other communities impacted, the military chief of staff remains in Mambasa to coordinate FARDC operations.
Feb 27 // OCP AND CLUB PENGUIN DISTRIBUTE SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Throughout January and February, Morgan and his men stage a series of attacks on villages throughout the Reserve and eastern Congo that leave several dead and take over a dozen hostage. Despite the dangers, OCP and peer organizations continue efforts to bring stability to the Reserve, including the distribution of supplies to more than 100 schools. The government, in the meantime, receives a pledge from UNESCO to undertake another joint operation to neutralize the rebels.
JUN 10 // PROGRESS AT EPULU STATION
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