Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Mbuti, Okapis, and Thou

Ed Rackley posts the first article of a promised two-part series on John and Therese Hart, conservationists who have lived and worked in remote northeastern Congo since the early 1970s. Their current project is to develop a new national park in eastern DRC, in the rainforest south of Kisangani. Their previous work led to the creation of the Okapi Faunal Reserve in 1993, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rackley's a good writer and this is a lovely piece. Rackley draws out an anology between the Harts and their subjects: "Their relationship to conservation in Congo resembles the ways their friends the Mbuti know the Ituri forest—as an instinctive medium, their most familiar element, even as it resists, threatens and sustains them."

This film of the Harts in the early 1990s shows how their achievement with the Okapi Reserve was the culmination of years of radio tracking and habitat mapping with the Mbuti. It's also a wonderful evocation of their lives together in a mud-walled house, raising three children who seem as fully at home in the forest as their innumerable Mbuti friends. It's hard to imagine a more enchanted childhood.

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