Update August 4, 2012
We have just received a report that Morgan and part of his group were captured. We are awaiting confirmation from ICCN and will relay the facts as soon as we are sure of the accuracy of the report.
The situation remains calm in Epulu with Congolese army troops stationed along the road. The presence of the military and the return of armed ICCN guards to Epulu have improved the security in the area, allowing some residents to return to their homes. OCP staff in Epulu are cleaning up and preparing buildings for repair work which we will begin when it is safe to do so.
Food and medicines are being distributed every two weeks to displaced residents and will continue until people are able to harvest from the gardens near their homes. The clinic is operating in Epulu with OCP staff doctor and nurse on duty. One of the eleven remaining hostages was found in the forest by Mbuti pygmies and has been treated at the clinic and released to her family.
ICCN leadership is in the process of rearming guards and mobilizing supportive Congolese troops to reinforce security in the OWR. As a result of the looting by the Military under control of a General in Kisangani the government of DRC has transferred control of the area encompassing the Reserve to the Military leaders in Bunia who are much more supportive of ICCN. The support the guards are receiving from OCP and other partners is allowing them to increase their presence and patrols in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
The response to our emergency funding appeal has been overwhelming. Currently we are using these funds towards:
- Regular provisions of food and basic needs to the many displaced families, along with medical support in the communities in which they are temporarily located.
- Replacement of basic household needs i.e. mattresses, clothes, lanterns, pots and pans.
- Support for the families of rangers killed in action.
- Contribution of $30,000 to ICCN Emergency Fund which is reequipping the guards so they can continue to patrol and restore security to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
The future activities of the Okapi Conservation Project will be in accordance with the security situation in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. At this point we are focused on helping people displaced by the turmoil, supporting ICCN anti-poaching efforts, assisting communities around the Reserve and cleaning up the Station.
OCP staff based in communities around the Reserve continues to work in the areas of education, agroforestry, health care and maintaining communication with customary chiefs. We are in regular contact with ICCN leadership, as well as working together with partners towards a common goal of security and protection for the people and wildlife of the Reserve.
At this point the plan is for me to return to DR Congo in six weeks for meetings with ICCN, OCP staff and partners and to assess the situation in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. We will continue to update all our supporters about how we are adjusting operations based on the conditions in the DR Congo. All OCP and ICCN staff and their families are grateful for your generosity and it has given them encouragement in this tumultuous time.