Okapis are our pride and joy in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the national animal is depicted on the banknotes of the Congolese franc, while young people hang up pictures of okapis or wear them on their clothes. The okapi, also called “mondonga”, is an important symbol of origin and belonging. It is also a beautiful, graceful animal with stunning brown, black and white colours.
Okapis live in the forests of the north and northeast of the Republic. Unfortunately, they are threatened by poaching, urbanisation and deforestation. In addition, there is oil exploration, which involves the relocation of pygmy peoples who have lived in the forests with the okapis for centuries. This spells more danger for the animals.
The number of okapis is steadily dwindling, and eating their meat has now been banned. I myself have eaten okapi meat only once - and without knowing it. A few years ago, I visited a restaurant in Kisangani, a town in the north-east of the country. I thought I was eating antelope until my aunt said, “Missy, here you don't always know exactly what you are eating.”
I learned then that okapi meat is hardly different in taste and texture from antelope meat. The people in the region don't mind, eating this meat is part of their tradition. This is another reason why it is difficult to protect the animals from being hunted.