John Lukas, president of The Okapi Conservation Project

John Lukas—President of The Okapi Conservation Project—describes some of the key traits of this distinctive-looking, fascinating animal found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). john_lukas_8FEF9765AC2BB The okapi is often referred to as elusive—Lukas used the adjective “secretive”—because it’s enormously rare to see the animal in the wild, owing in part to its solitary nature, as well as its highly acute sense of hearing and smell, which helps it elude human and animal predators. Lukas also points out some details of the okapi tongue, which, as a herbivore, it uses to strip buds & leaves from trees, andOkapi_Conservation_Project_Logo at upwards of 18 inches long, it can be used housecat-like to clean its entire body. He also provides an overview of the history and evolution of The Okapi Conservation Project, and how it functions to   protect the okapi and its habitat in the DRC. Lukas also examines the precipitous decline in okapi, estimating that this number has dropped from about 40,000 a decade ago 10,000-15,000 (the animal’s elusive nature thwarting efforts at a more precise census), which is why the okapi was reclassified as “endangered” in the recently-released International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Articulating the chief causes of this population drop, Lukas paints a picture of the ripple effects of the armed conflict in this war-torn country, but expresses an optimistic view of what the future holds for the DRC—and the okapi. (,


ALSO: We spoke briefly with Kellie Sipos, executive director of Saddle Up Riding Club, an equestrian therapy program for disabled children and adults. The Club’s activities had been based in Pinellas Park, but they have been forced to move to a new location, and would welcome help–in the form of volunteers, as well as donations–to help execute that relocation.      (

COMEDY CORNER: Eddie Izzard’s “Talk To The Animals”  (portion)   (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Fab Four’s version of  “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”


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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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