Oni the okapi, who featured in the first episode of last week’s ITV documentary, London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year - has delighted zookeepers at the iconic zoo by giving birth to a healthy baby girl.
The second-time mum, whose lockdown pregnancy took centre stage in Thursday’s episode, went into labour late on Sunday 20 September before giving birth to the adorable calf – given the name ‘Ede’ by zookeepers – the following morning.
After spotting that Oni was in labour, dedicated keepers kept a watchful eye overnight on CCTV - rejoicing when tiny hooves and stripy legs began to emerge following a 12-hour vigil. The wide-eyed calf took its first wobbly steps minutes later and was tottering around confidently soon after.
ZSL okapi keeper Gemma Metcalf said: “Like all okapis, Oni had a long pregnancy - close to 16 months - so we’ve been excitedly waiting for Ede for a long time.
“As viewers saw last week, her lockdown pregnancy posed some logistical challenges for our team, but despite the Zoo being closed we remained by her side to make sure she had the highest standard of care throughout her third trimester - we’re delighted that both mother and baby are now doing so well.”
Episode 1 of the acclaimed documentary saw zookeepers and vets come together over Microsoft Teams to plan and perform a vital ultrasound on Oni during lockdown, while ensuring everyone involved remained two metres apart – coincidentally the length of an okapi.
“Oni has always been a star in our eyes, but while she’s currently shining on screen she’s also excelling off-screen - at being a brilliant mum.
“Ede is already a feisty young calf and has been bouncing happily around the stables, but Oni is keeping her in their cosy indoor dens until she feels Ede is ready to explore their lush outdoor paddocks - we can’t wait for our visitors to see the newest addition to the zoo family.”
Ede’s birth is exciting news for London’s zoo, but even more important for the global breeding programme for the species, which ensures a healthy population of okapi in zoos across the world. Okapi, found only in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, are classified as Endangered by the IUCN, with their survival threatened by habitat loss and hunting.
Episode 1 of London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year is available to watch on the ITV Hub now, with episode 2 scheduled for broadcast on Thursday 1 October.
ZSL London Zoo reopened to the public on Monday 15 June after an unprecedented three months of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown. The loss of income put the charity zoo under huge financial pressure as they continued to provide the highest level of care for their animals. Now open to limited numbers only, ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the Zoo, is calling on the public to help ensure they stay open by booking a ticket, joining as a member or donating to ZSL at www.zsl.org