The okapi is a very unique and decently rare animal in its home range which is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are located deep within the Congo rainforest which is the reason that they seem rare. They are hard to find but the estimated worldwide population is about 10,000-20,000 animals (Okapi Preservation, 2011). The okapi are currently not defined as threatened or endangered by international agreement, but the okapi is protected by law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to the large amount of poaching on the animal (Okapi Preservation, 2011). There is a large amount of poaching due to the desire for the fur/skin of the okapi. The okapi has a very unique look with zebra-like patterns on its back legs, bottom of the front legs, and shiny brown fur on the rest of its body.

            Currently there is a pretty decent amount of research going into okapi behavior and habitat in order to better understand how the okapi survives and how we can save this species. The okapi has one natural predator, the leopard, but its biggest threat is deforestation. The main effort to help the okapi is the “Okapi Conservation Project”. The Okapi Conservation Project was founded in 1987. Their main goal is to show and elicit support for the preservation of wild okapi and for zoological organizations around the world (Okapi Conservation Project, 2012). The biggest triumph so far by this group was the establishment of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The reserve encompasses 13,700 square kilometers in the Ituri forest in the Congo River basin. In 1996, the reserve was designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site. The Okapi Conservation Project employs one hundred ten wardens to help protect the okapi and multiple other forms of flora  and fauna in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, such as, the coffee tree (Okapi Conservation Project, 2012).

           The Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICNN) provides the funding for guards to protect the Okapi Wildlife Preserve. The guards travel through the preserve with several goals. They collect snares and traps while arresting and pursuing poachers (Okapi Conservation Project, 2012). Since the end to the Congo’s civil war in 2004 there has been a high demand for materials such as metal ores and coal. The preserve is rich in these resources so illegal mining is very common in this region. The guards are also responsible for evicting these miners because of its detrimental effects of the environment (Okapi Conservation Project, 2012). The guards are not only for protecting the preserve and arresting poachers. Since they know the terrain and landscape of the preserve well, the guards are an invaluable resource in guiding biologists during the numerous wildlife studies that occur here. Many of the studies revolve around the okapi’s habitat. If more is known about the okapi’s habitat then preservation efforts can be focused to maximize the effects of dollars spent on preservation. The okapi’s reproductive habits are also being studied now. The okapi has a very long gestation period and very little else is known about their mating patterns. To learn more about the reproductive habits of the species, a male okapi was released that has certain genetic markers that should be transmitted to the young. This should help show how much males reproduce and see if okapi are monogamous or not (Okapi Conservation Project, 2012).

            The okapi is a mysterious animal and not much research has been done on it so far. The Okapi Conservation Project is trying to change this and bring more awareness to the okapi and its needs. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a good start at conserving this unique animal but, more research needs to be done to adequately protect the okapi. These studies are currently in progress within the preserve. With support from the United Nations and the ICCN along with the protection of the preserve by the loyal guards the okapi has a bright and optimistic future.