Last month, Denver Zoo celebrated 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.
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.