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New Okapi Royalty at Antwerp Zoo

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Zoo Antwerpen’s royal resident, Yenthe the Okapi, recently gave birth to a new princess. The new calf, Qira, was born November 15. She weighed in at 24 kg (53 lbs) and was 85 cm (2.7 ft) tall.

Antwerp Zoo has a special connection to this beautiful animal. The Zoo is coordinator of the European breeding programme for the Okapi, and the prolific stripes of this endangered species are used in the Zoo’s logo.

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4_fotolink-okapi-qira (2)Photo Credits: ZOO Antwerpen / Jonas Verhulst

 The new calf and her mom are bonding and doing well. Yenthe’s gestation period was exceptionally long; she counted 443 days, instead of the typical 410 to 440 days. Following the tradition of giving all 2015 babies names starting with “Q”, the small Okapi was named Qira (meaning Sun). Qira is steadily gaining weight and can be identified by the unique stripe pattern on her buttocks and legs.

Zookeeper, Patrick Immens, said, “Qira seems a very easy baby. She drinks well and follows mama, Yenthe, very easily. She even steps onto the scale with ease…”

Three Okapi are now living at the Zoo: Yenthe, Qira, and the proud father, Bondo. The “royal family” is considered to be invaluable to the breeding program of this endangered species. Yenthe and Bondo are said to be an exceptionally good match due to their genetic makeup, and their contribution to the European breeding programme is invaluable.

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), 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 410 to 440 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.

(Mom and Dad---Yenthe and Bondo)

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