A talk on The Challenges of Managing Protected Areas during Armed Conflict – The Case of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo by UNEP Post-Conflict and Disasters Management Branch and the Geneva Environment Network.
Rosemarie Ruf is a leading environmental conservationist in Epulu, at the heart of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Born in 1950 and of Swiss-German origin, Rosemarie has been working in DRC since 1979, and in Epulu since 1987 – making her arguably the longest-serving in-situ expat environmentalist in eastern DRC. She played a pivotal role in establishing the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in 1992, a protected area of over 13,700 km2 (the same size as Serengetti National Park) that is home to the critically endangered okapi, endemic to DRC. Prior to establishing her base in Epulu Rosie worked at Gbadolite zoo (in western DRC), a project that was known to be favored by former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Rosie, who has been supported by US-based NGO Gilman International Conservation for many years, has worked tirelessly to secure the future of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (a UN World Heritage Site since 1996), working in close collaboration with the Congolese authorities (mainly the Congolese Wildlife Authority), civil society and international stakeholders. The challenges are numerous and complex, including artisanal mining, illegal logging, poaching – all within the context of multiple armed groups operating in the area, poor infrastructure and limited access.