Okapi

Rare Baby Okapi Birth Celebrated at Lowry Park Zoo

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Officially, he’s one in a hundred, but to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, he’s one in a million. A rare Okapi calf – a forest giraffe found only in Central Africa – was born on January 6, representing the first birth of the new year at the zoo and the first Okapi birth of the year in the North American population. 

The now 3-week-old has grown to weigh 96 pounds (43.5 kgs) from his 64 pounds (29 kg) recorded at birth. Like most babies, he spends his days nursing, sleeping and following his mother around the barn. For the time being, he will “nest” in a suitable hiding spot identified by the mother, likely inside the barn. Hiding behavior is common and in the wild, providing protection from predators.

The pairing of parents Zack and Betty was recommended by the Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP), managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help ensure the survival of select wildlife species.  Okapis are listed as Threatened, with continued loss of habitat and political unrest in their native region. The managed population grows slowly due to a lengthy gestation (approximately 14.5 months) and relatively high mortality rate.   

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Photo Credit: Lowry Park Zoo

Okapis have reddish-brown, velvet-like coats with horizontal zebra-like striping on their hindquarters and legs. The unique color pattern allows them to disappear into dense vegetation in the forests where they live. The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, but okapis have much shorter necks. These unusual animals also have large upright ears with a keen sense of hearing, and long, dark prehensile tongues that they use to pluck vegetation from trees and shrubs.

Continue reading much more about Okapis and conservation efforts for the species after the fold:

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Another Okapi for Antwerp!

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The staff at Belgium's Zoo Antwerpen expected female Okapi Yenthe to deliver her baby on Christmas Day, but she had other plans.  At about 3:00 AM on December 16, the zoo’s night watchman alerted keepers when he noticed something unusual in the Okapi house.  Keepers were able to immediately see Yenthe and her new baby from their homes, using a web cam installed at the Okapi house. 

The male baby was named Ngwani, which means “child.”  He is the 49th Okapi born at Zoo Antwerpen since Okapi first arrived at the zoo in 1919.  There are currently eight Okapi at the zoo, including two other calves born in the last two years. 

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Zoo Antwerpen manages the international studbook for Okapi.  In this role, the zoo coordinates breeding recommendations for captive Okapi, with the goal of maintaining a genetically healthy population in zoos worldwide.

Okapi are found only in the dense rain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo – nowhere else.  They are perfectly suited for life among the vegetation.  Only about 10-20,000 Okapi remain in the wild, and these are under threat from poaching, habitat loss, and ongoing conflict in the region.

Photo credit:  © ZOO Antwerpen / Jonas Verhulst


After tragedy, Okapi calf represents hope

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Following a devastating blow to Okapi conservation efforts this summer, a ray of hope arrived for this threatened species:  a healthy Okapi calf was born on September 15 at the Antwerp Zoo.

Conservationists were stunned when poachers raided the Okapi Wildlife Resrve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in June, wiping out the entire breeding herd of 14 Okapi and killing 19 people.   But far from the scene of the attack, the staff of the Antwerp Zoo was closely monitoring Sofie the Okapi during her pregnancy.

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During Sofie’s pregnancy, which was her sixth, the zoo’s veterinary staff took advantage of her easygoing demeanor to learn all they could about her developing calf through frequent ultrasounds, hoping that the knowledge gained will improve captive Okapi breeding success.

Zoo breeding programs are more important than ever in light of the June attack.  Okapi are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Clearing of rain forest for agriculture and tropical hardwoods, mining, poaching and the political and socio-economic unrest in the region contribute to the Okapi’s uncertain future.

The Antwerp Zoo oversees the breeding program for Okapi in European zoos in an effort to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  Okapi are related to giraffes, as evidenced by their long tongues and long necks.  The bold stripes are unique to each Okapi, much like a person’s fingerprints.  These stripes provide ideal camouflage in their native jungle habitat.

Photo Credits:  Antwerp Zoo


Okapi Breeding Program Succeeding at Bronx Zoo

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A baby okapi was born this summer, at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo following more than a year of careful animal husbandry science by the zoo’s mammal curators. The calf, named M’bura, just made her public debut in the habitat. She'll be on exhibit intermittently as she adjusts to her sourroundings.

Upon birth, the mother and the calf are allowed time to bond. Unlike what would be normal practice for other ungulate species, a neonatal exam is not performed and the calf is not weighed because the species is very susceptible to stress.

Curators give the mother and calf plenty of room to encourage natural behaviors. In the wild, okapi females will leave their calves for long periods of time to feed and return only for short periods to nurse them. The female and calf spend relatively little time together.  For the first two months of its life the calf will spend about 80 percent of its time in its “nest” area. Okapi calves start sampling solid foods by three weeks of age and are usually weaned by the time they are six months old. At the Bronx Zoo, this new calf will slowly transition to a diet of leaves, alfalfa hay, specially formulated pelleted grain, and produce.

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Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

 

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It's a Girl! Okapi Baby First Female In Eleven Years For San Diego Zoo

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Looking a lot like a horse, but with stripes similar to a zebra, the faces of an okapi calf and her mother show signs of their real relative: the giraffe! On September 4, mom Makini gave birth to the 37th okapi born at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park -- the first female born in 11 years. Okapis are the only living relative of the giraffe and have similar large, upright ears and a prehensile tongue that helps them strip leaves from trees in their native habitat of the Ituri Forest in Central Africa.

Animal care staff reports that the calf, which has not been named yet, is adventurous, independent and self-assured. She is tolerant and enjoys petting from her keepers. And like her mother, she can often be seeing sticking out her tongue.

Calves look just like adults except for a short fringe of hair along their spine, which will disappear about a year after birth. Guests at the Safari Park can see this calf, and other okapis, in the African Woods area on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 9 a.m and noon.

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Photo Credits: Ken Bohn and San Diego Zoo Safari Park 


Rare "Forest Giraffe" Born at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo

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The Chicago Zoological Society, which mangaes the Brookfield Zoo, is pleased to announce the birth of a rare hoofed mammal called an Okapi. Also known as "Forest Giraffes", these elusive hoofed mammals are largely a mystery to zoologists. Births such as this one help to shed light on the behavioral patterns of mother Okapi and how they rear their young in the wild. Brookfield welcomed the first North American Okapi birth back in 1959, and has since successfully bred 30 individuals, including this latest addition to the family.

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Striped Stockings: Baby Okapi at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

While it might look like a zebra or horse, the okapi is actually the only living relative of the giraffe. A shy, reclusive forest dweller, little is known about okapis in the wild. 

On October 3rd, mother okapi Betty gave birth to a female calf at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Mother and daughter are bonding well, as the pictures below demonstrate. 

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There's a New Okapi in Town

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.

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Okapis are known for their striped knee socks...

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