Zee Media Bureau/Liji Varghese
New Delhi: The Okapi, the national symbol of Congo, has been added to the endangered species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The Okapi though bears striped markings similar to that of zebras, is more closely related to the giraffe.
IUCN`s Red List of endangered species, updated twice a year, rates the okapi as endangered — the third ominous category behind "Critically Endangered" and "Extinct in the Wild."
Okapis (Okapia johnstoni) often referred to as the forest giraffes, are native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa.
According to IUCN, the okapi population is continually decreasing since 1995 due to habitat destruction and poaching. The constant civil conflicts and widespread poverty in the area has greatly hindered the conservation efforts. The rate of decline is more than 50 percent over three generations (24 years) of the mammals.
The latest report released by IUCN also features fifteen bird species from India including the white-winged sub-Saharan Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi in the Critically Endangered (CE) category.
The animals that have gained in the IUCN`s Red list are leatherback turtle which moved from “Critically Endangered” to “Vulnerable” and two species of albatross, the black-browed albatross and black-footed albatross which have moved from “Endangered” to “Near Threatened” and “Vulnerable” to “Near Threatened” category respectively.
IUCN says 21,286 of the 71,576 species surveyed are threatened with extinction.