A 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.
Photo 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.