The Endangered Okapi
Wednesday, May 17 • 7:00–8:00 pm
at the Children’s Museum of the Upstate
300 College Street, Greenville (Use side entrance off Academy Street)
Special Guest Speaker: John Lukas
President and founder of the Okapi Conservation Project
Learn how the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) is protecting the endangered Okapi, and its habitat, in the DemocraticRepublic of Congo.
Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) 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. Designated as a World Heritage Site, the Reserve is one of the most biologically diverse areas in all of Africa. Its model programs in sustainability and stewardship promote the viability of the region’s biodiversity and survival of native species like the okapi, which is under increasing threat from habitat destruction and illegal human activities. OCP focuses on developing an economic and educational foundation on which the Okapi Wildlife Reserve can operate. This is achieved through programs in wildlife protection, alternative agriculture, and community assistance, and by working with the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), a government organization responsible for the protection of the Reserve. Support for OCP activities comes from a global network of zoos, conservation funds, and private donors.
About the Speaker: John Lukas
John is currently leading the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens efforts in developing a strategic conservation program that will help advance their current partnerships and forge new alliances for the benefit of wildlife and wild places. The zoo is supporting John’s involvement in managing the Okapi Conservation Project in DR Congo and his leadership roles with partner organizations such as the International Rhino Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Network.
For 6 years, John was the resident curator for the New York Zoological Society’s Rare Animal Survival Center on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. After getting to know paper magnate Howard Gilman during a safari to Africa in 1980, he became White Oak Plantation’s first director of conservation in 1982. For 30 years John led the development of White Oak Conservation Center into a base of conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species that are part of breeding, research, training and re-introduction programs involving biologists, researchers and students from around the world.
John’s holistic approach to wildlife conservation is espoused by his involvement in field conservation programs around the world. He is president and founder of the Okapi Conservation Project in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo which since 1987 works to protect the wild population of okapi through the support of wildlife rangers and assisting local communities to become better stewards of their natural resources. John serves as a member of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group. He is a founding member and the president of the International Rhino Foundation, which operates and funds in situ protection and research studies for all five species of rhinos. He is also a founding board member and vice-president of the Wildlife Conservation Network, which provides operating funds and technical support for entrepreneurial conservationists working with communities to conserve wildlife and habitat. John is a director of the Tusk Trust, an organization based in the US and UK that provides support to conservation projects in Africa. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Anna Mertz Rhino Trust which funds on the ground protection of rhinos in Africa and Asia. John is an advisor to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center which is rehabilitating orphaned endangered Grauer’s gorillas in DR Congo. He is chairman of the board of the South East Zoo Alliance for Conservation and Research. John serves on the Advisory Board of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival.