The Dallas Zoo welcomed a healthy baby Okapi, born on August 14. Keepers have named her Almasi, the Swahili word for diamond. After a long 14-month gestation, Almasi weighed 47 pounds (21 kg) at birth, and is now up to 190 pounds (86 kg). When fully grown, she’ll stand more than 5 feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 700 pounds (317 kg). This past weekend, she made her debut at the zoo's outdoor Okapi habitat.
Almasi is the second calf born to her mother, Desi, who is taking very good care of her little one. For now, both remain in their nesting stalls, although Almasi is getting more adventurous every day.
“Almasi’s birth is another major success in efforts to ensure that this incredible animal species survives,” said Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., vice president of animal operations and welfare for the Dallas Zoo. “The Dallas Zoo has a long history of caring for and learning about Okapi, and we will continue to be a leader in the fight to educate the world to protect these animals.” Almasi is the 36th calf born in the zoo’s 50-year history of caring for this rare species.
See a video of the playful calf:
Okapi (pronounced oh-KOP-ee) are a unique and mysterious animal, so elusive that they have been nicknamed the African unicorn. Their black-and-white striped legs and horselike bodies resemble a zebra, but the okapi is most closely related to giraffes. Like giraffes, their heads have large ears that give them keen hearing and their long prehensile tongues let them strip leaves and shoots from trees.
Okapi in the wild are found exclusively in the Ituri rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are difficult to see in the rain forest because of their striking camouflage. Because they’re very elusive and the Congo rain forest is so rugged, little is known about their behavior in the wild. However, researchers have found that their numbers are declining rapidly due to destruction of their rain forest home, despite their popularity in the African country. Okapi are even featured on the Congo’s 1,000-franc note.
“These animals have irresistible charm and behave unlike any other mammal,” said Megan Lumpkin, the Dallas Zoo’s lead keeper for the okapi. “They communicate using infrasound, a low-frequency sound undetectable to humans. It is critically important that they be protected.”
Learn more about Okapi conservation after the fold.