The programme contributes to maintaining a cooperatively managed global ex situ population of the endangered okapi that inspires conservation action through education, fundraising and focused scientific research and serves as an insurance population for the wild. The first part of the mission was endorsed by IUCN SCC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group. The intention to create an insurance population was formulated after the Okapi Conservation Strategy 2015-2025 was developed - as the SSP, the EEP and OCP (Okapi Conservation Project) felt the future perspective in the Democratic Republic of Congo was not stable enough to guarantee reintroduction from the population in human care would never be needed. The global population is intended to grow to approximately 220 individuals - target population size for the EEP is 90 individuals.
The programme expects all holders of okapi to support the Okapi Conservation Project directly. The project works in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect the natural habitat of the endangered okapi and indigenous Mbuti pygmies living in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
• Conservation education (within EAZA institutions)
The programme expects holders of okapi to develop a solid education plan with a common message using the materials made available. The main focus is to draw attention to a threatened species in a threatened habitat and create incentive to support in situ work for the species.
Okapi is an elusive species, which makes studying them in situ a challenge. The EAZA population of okapi provides a unique opportunity to contribute to non-invasive research on the species (stress hormones, mate compatibility) which can optimize husbandry and welfare of the population in human care as well as further the development of small population management.