A Star Is Born - With Stripes!

Africa okapi calf 1 oct 3 2015A rare Okapi calf was born on September 24 atTampa’s Lowry Park Zoo! The yet-to-be-named newborn, a male, weighed 42 pounds at birth and is the second successful Okapi birth in the zoo’s history.Africa okapi betty and calf oct 3 2015

Africa okapi calf  oct 2 2015
Africa okapi calf 5 oct 2 2015Photo Credit:  Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
Born to experienced mother Betty, the calf was able to stand within hours of birth.  The calf is expected to spend about two months “nesting” in the Okapi barn, which is similar to the hiding behavior that wild Okapi calves employ as protection from predators.

This calf is only the third Okapi born in the United States in 2015.  These large hoofed mammals are managed by the Okapi Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to maximize genetic diversity of this Endangered species.  The managed population grows slowly due to a 14-16 month gestation period, and results in about four North American births per year.

Okapi are sometimes called “Forest Giraffes” and are native to the dense rain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Shy and reclusive, Okapi are the only living relatives of Giraffes and were discovered by scientists in the 20th century.  Due to habitat loss and political unrest in the DRC, the wild population has declined by 50 percent in the last 20 years.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Okapi Conservation Project to secure a protected area in the DRC's Ituri Forest.  The project's goals are to train and equip wildlife guards to protect the area from poachers, provide community assistance to people living around the reserve, educate people about sustainable use, and provide care for a breeding group of Okapi in the reserve. 

Okapi Calf Makes Reluctant Debut at Chester Zoo

1_New okapi calf Usala with mum Stuma (3)

An Okapi calf recently made his public debut at Chester Zoo, in the UK.

The youngster, named Usala, was born April 30th to parents, Stuma and Dicky. Okapi calves are notoriously elusive, and Usala’s first public outing required some steady persuasion from mum Stuma.

2_New okapi calf Usala (3)


4_11393328_10153314472135912_8934405666939726885_oPhoto Credits: Chester Zoo

Keeper, Fiona Howe said, “Okapis are rather secretive animals. Up until now, Usala has been out of the spotlight, cozied up in his nest. But thanks to the support of mum Stuma, he’s now starting to explore.”

“A trademark of the Okapi is the stripy markings on their legs; designed to help offspring follow them through deep forest. And that’s exactly where you’ll tend to see Usala - sticking closely to his mum’s legs as she moves around foraging for food. Stuma is an excellent mum, and she’s doing a great job of helping her new charge gain confidence on his legs. She can often be seen offering him an affectionate nuzzle as reassurance that he’s doing well,” Fiona continued.

Usala’s arrival is an important boost to the breeding programme for the endangered animals, increasing the number of Okapis in UK zoos to 14. This is only the second Okapi ever born at Chester Zoo. Tafari, a female, was born in 2012.

The Okapi, also known as the “forest giraffe”, is a rare hoofed mammal, native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are closely related to the Giraffe, and along with their long-necked cousin, they are the only living members of the family Giraffidae. American and European scientists did not discover the species until the early 1900s. Because of the Okapi’s elusiveness, little has been known about their behavior in the wild, including how they raise their calves.

Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi. Females become sexually mature when about one-and-a-half years old, while males reach maturity after two years.

After successful mating, there is a gestational period of around 440 to 450 days, which results, usually, in the birth of a single calf. Only male Okapi have horns, and females are commonly a bit taller than males.

Okapis are currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Population numbers of Okapi, in the wild, have been declining and are predicted to continue on this downward trend due to habitat loss, human settlement, mining, war and political instability in these animals’ region, and the bushmeat trade.

Chester Zoo is working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Giraffe and Okapi specialist advisory group to develop a conservation strategy for Okapis. Chester Zoo also supports the DRC Wildlife Authority and their efforts to protect the species in the Ituri Forest in the DRC. 

More amazing pics and video, below the fold!

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Brookfield Zoo Shares Photos of Newest Okapi


Brookfield Zoo, in Chicago, Illinois, is excited to share photos of ‘Will’, a male Okapi born at the zoo on April 21. Born to first-time mom, ‘Augusta K.’, Will is currently behind the scenes, but he can be seen via a live video feed that is set up in the zoo’s “Habitat Africa! The Forest”. 



4_11289439_10153371363684170_1953671532691818883_oPhoto Credits: Brookfield Zoo

During Will’s first few months of life, he will spend the majority of his time in an indoor nesting area. In the wild, a mother Okapi leaves her calf at a protected nesting site, to keep it hidden from predators. She returns only to allow the calf to nurse. Once Will is more active, at about 3 months old, guests will be able to see him exploring his outdoor habitat with Augusta.

Brookfield Zoo was the site of the first Okapi birth in North America in 1959 and has had 27 successful births, including this newest addition.

The Okapi, also known as the “forest giraffe”, is a rare hoofed mammal, native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American and European scientists did not discover the species until the early 1900s. Because of the Okapi’s elusiveness, little has been known about their behavior in the wild, including how they raise their calves. The Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo, has been a leader in gathering information on mother-calf relationships and calf development. This information has been instrumental in developing husbandry methods to help Okapi mothers raise their calves successfully.

Population numbers of Okapi, in the wild, have been declining and are predicted to continue on this downward trend due to habitat loss, human settlement, mining, war and political instability in these animals’ region, and the bushmeat trade. A global initiative formed in 2013 is helping to attract and strengthen international support for the species, and its closest relative: the giraffe, by providing an official forum to support the implementation of much-needed conservation strategies. 

Visit www.CZS.org/YouCanHelp to learn how to help with Okapi conservation.

More great photos, below the fold!

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First Okapi Birth at Houston Zoo


The Houston Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a baby Okapi. The yet-to-be-named male calf was born on November 6 and has been thriving under the care of his mother, Tulia. 



1512790_10152926618342526_6295363896991196210_nPhoto Credits: Houston Zoo

The pair will continue to bond behind the scenes for the next several weeks.  This is the first successful birth of a baby Okapi at the zoo.

Okapis are also known as the “forest giraffe” and are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Since 2013, the species has been classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Zebra and giraffe live in herds, but Okapi usually live alone in the forest. Sometimes a mother will live with its one calf until the calf is grown. Like giraffes, Okapi have long tongues they use for plucking leaves, buds, and branches from trees to eat. Okapi are solitary creatures that hide in the dense forest where they live. They were not discovered until 1901. Okapi need thick rainforests to live, but their homes are being cut down. People are working to protect the rainforests to make sure Okapi have the food, water, and shelter they need to survive. 

More amazing pics below the fold!

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Baby Okapi Shows Off Stripes at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

OkapiCalfJacksonmedTammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Okapi mother Ayana watched over her 2-week-old calf as he took a break from nursing this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The male calf, named Jackson, was born on July 6 and is spending time with his mother in the Okapi barn at the Safari Park as he gets to know his surroundings.
Okapi newborns can stand up within 30 minutes of birth and nurse for the first time within an hour of birth. They have the same coloring as an adult but have a short fringe of hair along the spine, which generally disappears by the time they are 12 to 14 months old. 
To honor those who devote their lives to animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along with zoos nationwide, are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week July 20 through 26. There are more than 6,000 zoo keepers across the U.S. who care for animals in fields that involve medical care, training, research, enrichment and education.  San Diego Zoo Global salutes the animal care professionals who contribute to wildlife care and help increase public awareness about the need to preserve habitats and the creatures that inhabit them. 

Okapi Bonds with Mom at Denver Zoo

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Denver Zoo has announced the birth of a rare Okapi! The male calf, named Jabari (Jah-bar-ee), was born to mother, Kalispell (Kal-lis-pell), and father, Sekele (seh-Kee-lee), on February 3. He is only the sixth birth of his species at the zoo. Jabari will remain behind the scenes for a little while longer, but visitors will soon be able to see the youngster as he grows and becomes more self-sufficient.

Jabari, Swahili for 'brave', is the first birth for both of his parents. Sekele and Kalispell were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Kalispell was born at Denver Zoo in 2009 and was actually the Zoo’s last okapi birth prior to Jabari. Sekele was born in 2009 at the San Diego Zoo and arrived at Denver Zoo in 2010. 

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3 okapiPhoto credit: Denver Zoo

This rare species was only first described by science about 100 years ago. 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. 

Okapis look like a cross between zebras and giraffes. In fact, the species is the closest 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 500 and 700 pounds (about 227 to 318 kg) and stand approximately five feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder. Females are generally larger than males. The Okapi’s gestation period is between 14 and 15 months.

Native only to the 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. Wild population estimates for the species are extremely difficult to determine because the forest is so dense, but scientists believe there are between 10,000 and 50,000 individuals. Their numbers are believed to be declining, and Okapis are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Additional threats come from habitat loss and hunting.

Antwerp Zoo Welcomes 50th Okapi Calf

The endangered Okapi is the symbol of Belgium’s Antwerp Zoo, and rightly so – the 50th Okapi calf to be born at the zoo arrived on December 27.  Named Oni, this female calf is part of the zoo’s important Okapi breeding program, which began when the first Okapi arrived there in 1919.

Oni2Photo Credit:  © ZOO Antwerpen / Jonas Verhulst

Oni is the second calf to be born to female Hakima and is doing well, according to zoo staff.  Like all Okapis, Oni has a unique pattern of stripes on her hindquarters.  She joins a group of seven Okapi at the zoo, including her sister Mchawi, who was born in 2011.

Antwerp Zoo manages the worldwide studbook for Okapi and coordinates the European breeding program for the species.  In this role, the zoo maintains data on every zoo-born Okapi in the world, reviews the data, and determines which pairings will result in the highest genetic diversity in any offspring.   Efforts like this are crucial to the survival of the endangered Okapi, whose wild population has plummeted by 75% in the last decade. 

There are currently 170 Okapi in zoos worldwide, but scientists estimate that 270 Okapi are needed to sustain a genetically healthy captive population. To reach this target, 13 Okapi births are needed each year for the next several decades 

Closely related to Giraffes, only 10,000 Okapi survive in the dense rain forests of Africa’s Congo basin.  Deforestation, hunting, and political instability threaten their future.  The Antwerp Zoo supports an Okapi reserve that serves as a refuge for these animals.

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.

Dallas Zoo Welcomes 36th Okapi Calf

5 okapi

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.

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3 okapiPhoto credits: Cathy Burkey / Dallas Zoo

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.

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First Okapi Born in 25 Years in France at the Beauval Zoo


The Beauval Zoo in France was thrilled to welcome Mbuti, the first Okapi born in France since 1988. Mbuti was born on June 27th to mother Kamina. Both are thriving, and Mbuti has since taken her first steps.


Okapi are a unique mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in Central Africa. Though the animal bears stripes resembling those of a Zebra, it is far more closely related to the Giraffe. The species was unknown to the western world until the 20th century. Though the species is not Endangered, it remains Threatened due to habitat loss and poaching.


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