The Marvellous Okapi

Bowdleflode News No. 37 – June 2021

An okapi grazing

One of the most important countries for biodiversity conservation is The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, Africa). It has the highest number of species for almost all groups of organisms with the exception of plants, in which it is second only to South Africa.

The DRC also harbours a number of spectacular endemic species like the okapi. Found in the dense tropical forests that surround the Congo River, these bizarre and beautiful creatures endure a heart-breaking tale.
Distinct by their patchwork coat that combines velvety red flanks and neck with the legs and hindquarters of a zebra, they are smaller than an average horse. Spending their time in their own solitary world, eating leaves and searching for fruit. They are so elusive they have earned the near mythical status and fairytale nickname of the “African unicorn”.

But in these modern times the way they have been treated can be compared more to the likes of a horror movie than a fairytale. Thrust into the midst of brutal human conflict – targeted by militant groups who poach and eat them at will. Their beautiful patchwork skins scraped from their bodies to put cash in the bank of criminals. The result is unsurprising – a decline and broken population, plunging closer and closer to extinction.

Organisations like Fauna & Flora International have been working tirelessly for decades in the DRC, ensuring that wildlife conservation has retained a voice throughout the extended periods of civil unrest and political turbulence. Their work has ranged from helping to develop a community conservation strategy, which was adopted nationally, to supporting local communities in developing appropriate local governance systems to ensure that natural resources can be managed sustainably. They have also supported biodiversity monitoring which has identified critical areas for important species such as the Okapi. This crucial work not only goes a long way in relieving pressure on the forest but also provides a much needed source of income and livelihood for the community.

Californian Butterfly given Lifeline

A Western Monarch butterfly

Known for their windowpane wing design and bright orange colour, Western monarch butterflies add a dash of magic to the California coast, where they spend the winter.

The population however has been dwindling drastically, some 99%, since the 1980s. A major factor in the drop has been a decline in milkweed (a powerhouse wildflower known for being a mega food market for insects) caused by farming and pesticide use. Milkweed is vital to monarchs as a place to lay eggs and as a food source for their caterpillars.

A coalition of conservation groups, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the environmentalist organization River Partners are working together to extend a lifeline to the monarchs. An effort from the groups has been made to add 30,000 milkweed plants across the state to provide the butterflies with places to breed and acquire the sustenance for migration.

From October to March the monarch butterflies do something called “overwintering” on the Californian coast, before migrating farther inland to breed. Every year volunteers count the migrating monarchs at the overwintering sites – in 2019, 29,000 butterlfies were counted, a year later the number was just 2000. The million dollar state-funded initiative to restore their natural habitat is a bid to hopefully restore the population itself over time.

California’s project is using three different varieties of milkweed: showy milkweed, narrowleaf milkweed, and a desert milkweed. Local nurseries were called upon to provide the milkweed plugs for the planting effort. Not all types of milkweed are the answer though.  A few well-intentioned locals have started planting tropical milkweed in their gardens in an effort to help the monarchs.  However, tropical milkweed is not native to California and doesn’t die out in winter, which confuses the monarchs’ migratory patterns. This could prevent them from re-entering the spring migration and breeding inland.  Tropical milkweed can also carry a high disease load.

Bowdleflode of the Month



Created by ERIKA at Mayfield School, Ealing, UK

This month we feature BUNNYROOWL!
Created by Erika in the Art Ambassadors Group at Mayfield Primary, Ealing, UK.
This Bowdleflode measures 1.5metres and weights 73kg. 
They have furry legs and a narwhal horn. They live in tree tops using sticks and leaves to create its nest. They eat leaves and grass as well as cows and sheep! Very active creatures they can be both mischievous and calm.⠀
⠀Thank you Erika for your incredible creation!

Have a nice day!

If you love cute photographs of animals then the annual Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are a must.  The 2021 competition is well under way – with entries due to close on 30 June, here’s just a few guaranteed to put a smile on your face!