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After a 28-year Wait, LA Zoo Celebrates First Okapi Calf


More than 28 years of planning and preparation have paid off for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens!  The zoo’s first-ever Okapi calf, born on August 26, made his public debut in November.

Photo Credit:  Los Angeles Zoo

The zoo received its very first Okapi in 2005 after trying to obtain one for more than 20 years. Jamal, then 10 years old, came to the zoo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. The zoo’s goal of obtaining a breeding pair was achieved in 2010 when a female, Baraka, arrived from Denver Zoo.

With black-and-white stripes, Okapis may look like zebras, but they are actually the closest living relatives of giraffes. Often called the “forest giraffe,” this shy, secretive Central African species has a lustrous, velvety coat, a 14-18-inch-long prehensile tongue.  Adults stand over six feet tall and weigh 400-700 pounds.

“This long-awaited birth is particularly special because it's the first Okapi we've ever had born here at the zoo,” said John Lewis, Los Angeles Zoo Director. “Being able to have a species like this breed in our zoo is a real testament to the hard work of the staff and their dedication to Okapi conservation.”

The Los Angeles Zoo works with The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP), a conservation group initiated in 1987 with the objective of eliciting support for the conservation of the wild Okapi from individuals, foundations, and zoological institutions managing Okapi around the world. The Okapi is an important flagship species for a rain forest habitat that is rapidly vanishing. Over the last decade, the wild Okapi population has dropped from 40,000 to 10,000, and there are currently only 85 Okapi in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos.