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Rare Okapi Birth at Rotterdam Zoo

In the Netherlands, Rotterdam Zoo’s Okapi M'buti gave birth to a baby on Sunday November 21 at 12:15 pm. Mother and baby are doing well. M'buti is an experienced mother, this is her third baby. The father is Ngwani. The little one will remain in the stable for the next few weeks. Okapis are altricial, meaning they mature after birth with the aid of their parents. Just like in the wild, the mother leaves her young in a safe place and returns only to nurse. At first, okapi calves spend their days mostly sleeping and drinking. Visitors will soon be able to peek into the nursery via webcam.

Okapis are related to giraffes and are also known as forest giraffes. They are only found in the impenetrable jungle in Congo where they are threatened by poaching, logging and political instability. The animals are also a bit mysterious: they are the last large mammals discovered. They were only discovered by accident in the rainforest of Congo around 1900. The English civil servant Harry H. Johnston was handed a piece of velvety skin with stripes. He got it from the pygmy peoples who already knew the animal and hunted it. Johnston first thought he was dealing with a zebra, but six months later scientists discovered that it really was a completely new animal species.

Blijdorp history

Blijdorp has a long history with okapis. In 1957 Blijdorp received the first two okapis and in 1960 the first calf was born. After Paris, Antwerp, Chicago and New York, Blijdorp was the fifth zoo in the world where a healthy okapi was born and grew up almost without any problems. However, this did not happen automatically because okapis are not easy to care for. They are specialized leaf eaters that are very sensitive to intestinal parasites. After that, youngsters were born regularly, and the Rotterdam genetics are now well represented in the current okapi population in Europe and America.

Natural stay

In 2015, the okapis were given a new, spacious indoor and outdoor enclosure thanks to the Friends of Blijdorp Association. It is now inhabited by three adult females, a male and the newborn scion. The okapis live here together with various bird species. The residence is furnished with plants from their natural habitat.