News / Africa

    Suspect in Wildlife Reserve Attack Escapes

    John Lucas with an Okapi or forest giraffe (Okapi Conservation Project)
    John Lucas with an Okapi or forest giraffe (Okapi Conservation Project)
    Joe DeCapua
    The manhunt has resumed for the leader of a DRC militia that attacked a wildlife reserve in June. Six people were killed and 14 endangered forest giraffes, known as Okapi were slaughtered. He had been in the custody of a rival militia, but somehow escaped.



    Paul Sadala is the leader of the Mai Mai / Simba rebels in northeastern Ituri Province. He goes by the alias Morgan. He had long been wanted for elephant poaching and illegal mining within the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Now he’s wanted for an early morning attack on June 24th at the Okapi Conservation Project in Epulu.

    Rebels first attacked and burned the headquarters of the Institute in the Congo for the Conservation of Nature or ICCN. They then attacked the conservation project about a hundred yards away, killing the guards and the Okapi, then ransacking and looting buildings of equipment, food and fuel. Many Epulu residents fled the town. It’s believed the attack was in retaliation for efforts to stop Morgan’s illegal activities.

    Soldiers from the Congolese army, the FARDC, and ICCN guards launched a manhunt for Morgan and his men. But John Lukas, director of the Okapi Conservation Project, said it was an unexpected event that led to his initial capture.

    “One of his wives stole some money from him and left their encampment wherever it was in the forest south of the reserve. And she went quite a ways. He took 18 of his men and went after her, but he unfortunately crossed into the territory of another Mai Mai group and they are not friendly. So they actually engaged in a firefight with Morgan and captured him and the 18 men,” he said.

    Lukas says authorities confirmed his capture and began measures to take him into custody.

    “The ICCN was negotiating the release. They were asking a ransom, which was being put together to get Morgan and hopefully transfer him to Kinshasa. But he escaped the night of August 5th and I have concerns about the word ‘escape.’ But he is not at the encampment anymore. They still have the 18 rebels. So we feel that his group is quite weakened and right now, the FARDC and the ICCN guards are resuming the search for him,” he said.

    Lukas said Morgan’s reported escape may have had something to do with the ongoing violence in eastern DRC. Civilians are routinely killed, raped and displaced by various militias.

    “This happened in North Kivu, so they had traveled quit a way. And there was kind of a dispute about the people in North Kivu getting dragged into this conflict with this notorious poacher. So I think that had a lot to play on it. They didn’t want to bring repercussions to bear on them. So that could have been the influence about his so-called escape – more like a release,” he said.

    While the manhunt for Morgan continues, security has been bolstered at the reserve and conservation project. However, no Okapis will be brought there for the time being.

    “Right now, we’re focusing still on taking care of the displaced people. We’re feeding about 1500 family members every two weeks. We are slowly cleaning up the station. We have a contingent of people that are in Epulu that want to be there. There’s no requirement they return to Epulu - only if they want to – because their homes are there or their gardens are there. That’s why they went back. And the soldiers are there so it’s really secure,” said Lukas.

    It’s believed there are somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Okapi in the DRC’s rainforest. But they’re very elusive, so their exact number is not known. There are about 4,000 of the animals within the reserve itself. They look like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra and weigh up to 800 pounds.

    You May Like

    Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.