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Sever2018 okapi survey and recommendation

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Sever2018 okapi survey and recommendation

  1. 1. The zoological society of Israel, 2018, 55th Conference, Abstracts, p10. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Survey and Recommendation: Reintroducing the Okapi to Uganda Zvi Sever Department of Biology, University of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA sever.zvi@gmail.com In order to gather data about the possible presence of Okapis (Okapia jhonstoni) in the Semuliki national park in Uganda (situated between the Ituri and the Virunga forests in the Congo, DRC), this lowland tropical rain forest was surveyed using various methods. These consisted of the following: literature review, conversations with a researcher from the 1970s, meetings with the Pygmy tribe (who have been removed from the reserve), forest patrols (on foot), searching for dung, and the installation of four 'capture cameras' at two inaccessible sites. These cameras were placed at a distance of about 200 meters, and ran continuously for three days in September 2015 and nine days in April 2017. Two sites in the 2017 survey also had bait on the ground and the trees near the cameras. According to the literature, it cannot be ruled out that the first sighting of an Okapi that was described for the scientific world in 1901 occurred in the Semuliki Reserve in Uganda. Findings suggest that some of the first specimens that were caught in nature and transported to Europe came from the territory of what is today known as Uganda. According to researchers, in 1953, Okapi were hunted in the reserve, and in the sixties, Okapis were still observed and Europeans hunted there. A 2009 survey found that they were passing from Virunga in Congo via Lamia river to the Semuliki N.P. The pygmies, hunter-gatherers, claim that they and their forefathers encountered Okapis on their journeys in the Semuliki Reserve, and occasionally made “fall traps” to hunt them and acquire their tasty meat. They remember the arrival of the white men, whose goal was to capture Okapis for zoos in Europe. During the patrols, dung that could be clearly identified as belonging to Okapis was not found. The cameras documented a sitatunga, the impressive swamp-dwelling antelope, a duiker, and a tree squirrel, but no Okapis. With additional foot patrols and cameras placed in different locations, it seems probable that there are other areas where there is a chance of capturing Okapi images by means of photography. Therefore, it is recommended to continue in this direction, especially during the months when the Semuliki and Lamia rivers are shallow. In that time of year, chimpanzees enter the reserve from the Congo, and it is reasonable to assume that Okapi also come along with them. Thus, based on the findings of the survey, I strongly recommend that the Uganda introducingrea national project aimed atpromoteshould(UWA)AuthorityWildlife the Okapi to Uganda.

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