In the Midst of Political Turmoil, Can Congo’s Okapi Be Saved?

Photo: San Diego Zoo

The striped Okapi is a rare hybrid – described as half zebra and half giraffe – found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth. Most people have never seen or heard of this mythical creature, but CNN reports that it is iconic for this small nation — like the giant panda is to China or the kangaroo is to Australia. Its image can be found on cigarette packages, stamps, water bottles, and even on the country’s paper currency. But now it is highly endangered — there are only 10,000 remaining in the wild, a 50% reduction in the last 25 years.  CNN in an in-depth story explains the many pressures on the species.

The Okapi are the passion of an American scientist named John Lukas, who has made saving it his life’s mission, according to CNN.  Lukas used technology from NASA that helped amplify the sounds made by the Okapi to prove they communicate via infrasonic noises that are “quite dinosaur-like.”

There are some signs that after a peaceful transfer of power to the former President’s “friendly opposition leader” (whose election seems to have been rigged), the rebel fighters will lay down their arms, and that will provide some respite from violence for the Okapi.  Meanwhile, Lukas is hoping to expand his project to Maiko National Park to the south, “It’s a spectacular place with bongo antelope, okapis and gorillas,” he told CNN. “Nobody can go there, it needs our help. I don’t have much time left, so I’m going to spend every moment making a difference.”

Why This Matters:  Okapi have been preserved for some time in zoos around the world, but the numbers of those bred in captivity are dwindling — a baby recently died in a Florida zooCongo could be a place with vibrant ecotourism, like its neighbor Rwanda, but it would have to get Ebola and its violence in the rural areas under control. According to CNN, a “safari” to see a mountain gorilla in Rwanda costs $1,500, and tourism accounts for 13% of the country’s GDP, which has provided Rwandans an economic incentive to support conservation. But right now Congo’s parks, like Maiko and Virunga, are too dangerous for tourism.  Hopefully, the new government will be able to overcome both Ebola and civil unrest and save their valuable endangered Mountain Gorillas and Okapis.

Up Next

What’s Threatening Biodiversity? Hint: It’s US!

What’s Threatening Biodiversity? Hint: It’s US!

Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, causing rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet.

Why This Matters: without a vibrant Earth our chances of adequately feeding and sustaining 9.8 billion people by 2050 become slim.


Continue Reading 352 words

Fox News Host Tucker Carlson Equates Climate Migrants to “Pollution”

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in a news segment on Monday night created a firestorm over racist remarks in which he claimed that proposals to allow many more climate refugees to enter the U.S. would result in overcrowding and would “despoil” and “pollute” our country. 

Why This Matters:  Millions of people around the world — including Americans — are already suffering due to climate change and it has created a refugee crisis.  According to the proposal’s proponents, since 2009, a climate-related disaster has displaced about one person every second due to severe weather events, famine, drought, and rising sea levels, and other climate impacts.  The United Nations believes that 22.5 million people worldwide have been displaced due to climate change since 2009 and that number could rise to 200 million forcibly displaced people by 2050. We will be confronted with this problem regardless of whether Congress passes a law allowing the government to deal with it directly.  

Continue Reading 415 words
The VA Won’t Fund Service Dogs For PTS Therapy

The VA Won’t Fund Service Dogs For PTS Therapy

Military dogs are often homeless once they are retired from service.  And worse, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) won’t pay for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) to adopt them or other dogs as service dogs. Congressman John Rutherford of Florida has introduced a bill — the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2019  to provide funding to veterans diagnosed with PTS who would like to obtain a service dog.

Why This Matters: It would be a real win-win to see some of these dogs– or other dogs in need of homes — go to veterans who are suffering from PTS as an alternative or supplement to other treatments.

Continue Reading 292 words