The development of personnel capacity in support of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve continues as a critical component of the Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Providing educational and training opportunities for exceptional Congolese partners and staff is a vital aspect of the Project’s effort to help build the capacity within the DR Congo to help protect wildlife and forests.
Occasionally new guards are hired, trained and added to the Institute in Congo for Conservation of Nature cadre based in Epulu. Many of the new guards are from communities around the OWR, which promote good informant networks and sources of local information, promote conservation activities around the Reserve, and provide local communities with sources of employment and income. The OCP continues to provide materials for communication such as satellite phones, GPS units, and computers and opportunities to attend study courses for language and computers. The assessment and productivity of the OWR guards receives high marks, as a result of the quality training, equipment, better pay, and positive leadership they receive.
As part of the OCP’s ongoing commitment to capacity building, ICCN Okapi Wildlife Reserve Assistant Warden Gishlain Somba and Patrol Team Leader Dugira Abaka attended the Southern African Wildlife College wildlife conservation management courses in 2010. These courses provide state of the art training in wildlife law enforcement and protected area management, and upon completion these gentlemen returned to Epulu and will pass along their knowledge to their ranger teammates in annual on-site training exercises. The course has changed in recent years and now includes on the job training for three months during the course. The students are expected to apply and report on some of the techniques they have learned and most importantly, to share their knowledge with their ranger colleagues working in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Dugira and Somba have each reported that the course is extremely valuable, and an important life experience for them. This opportunity was made possible through a grant to the Okapi Conservation Project from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Without Borders program, with help from the Southern African Wildlife College and White Oak Conservation Center.