Baby Rhino Kicking in the Womb
A Gentler Side of Hamilton's Rambunctious Rhino

Okapis - Giraffes' Long Lost Cousin

The shy, elusive okapi lives only in the dense forests of the Congo and is the only surviving ancestor of giraffes. This gentle little girl was just born June 27th at the Denver Zoo. Although she looks like a tiny zebra on stilts at the moment, she will eventually grow as big as 500 lbs!

Baby okapi denver zoo 1

Baby okapi denver zoo 2

Baby okapi and mom denver zoo 3
Photo credits: Dave Parsons / Denver Zoo
Mother and Calf Can Be Seen in
Outdoor Yard Weather Permitting

Denver, CO (July 9, 2009) – Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of a rare okapi (Oh-kah-pee). The female calf, named Kalispell (Kal-i-spell), was born to mother, Iosi (Ee-oh-see), and father, Jekaro (Jeh-car-oh), on June 27, and is only the fifth birth of this species at the zoo. Kalispell will remain behind the scenes for a short while longer, but visitors will soon be able to see the youngster as she grows and becomes more self-sufficient.

Okapis look like a cross between zebras and giraffes. In fact, it is the only living relative to the giraffe. In addition to long necks, okapis have reddish bodies, black-and-white striped legs and 12-inch, purple, prehensile tongues. Adult okapis weigh between 400 and 500 pounds and stand approximately five feet tall at the shoulder. Females are generally larger than males. The okapi’s gestation period is between 14 and 15 months. The last birth of this species at Denver Zoo was a female calf named Kibongi (Ki-bong-ey), who was born on November 17, 2007.

Only 21 zoos in North America exhibit the okapi and there are only about a half-dozen births of these species at zoos annually. It is not known how many okapis exist in the wild, but there are only 89 okapis in North American zoos.

The calf was born as part of the Species Survival Plan, (SSP), a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is genetically diverse.

Native only to the dense Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), survival of the okapi is seriously threatened by unsettled political conditions and rebel military actions in that part of the DRC. This rare species was first discovered less than 100 years ago in what is now the Central African Republic (formerly Zaire). Very little is known about the behavior of the okapi in the wild due to its shy, elusive nature. Much of what is known has been learned in zoos in the past 45 years.