Today, October 18th, is the inaugural “World Okapi Day”, and there is no better way to celebrate than by announcing the arrival of a new Okapi calf!
In the early morning of October 1st, Zoo Basel welcomed their first Okapi birth in eleven years! The little bull calf, named Nuru, is the son of Mchawi. Keepers say he is a strong guy and has been exploring the indoor stables with great curiosity.
Nuru is the first male calf for mom, Mchawi. Born in 2011 at Antwerp, Mchawi has lived at Basel Zoo since 2014. The genetic basis of the EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) was very narrow for the Okapi. Zoo Basel decided a few years ago, in consultation with the EEP, to expand this base by importing new animals from the United States. At the end of this reshuffling, three animals found new homes at Zoo Basel: new mom, Mchawi, an eight-year-old bull Imba (who came from Dallas Zoo, US, in 2013), and five-year-old Ebony.
The hard work and efforts, of the EEP and cooperating Zoos, have paid off. Nuru seems to be a curious, courageous, and healthy calf. Keepers report that he sometimes skips naptime for jumping capers through the stables. It's too cold for the little guy to spend time in the outdoor exhibit, but when the temperatures warm, and Nuru is older, he will enjoy the outdoors as well. His current exhibit house is open for visitors, but they are asked to be patient. Nuru frequently withdraws for long periods of time to bond with his mom.
The breeding of the Okapi at Zoo Basel has a long history, with many interruptions. For the Zoo’s 75th anniversary in 1949, they received a bull from the Epulu-Breeding Station (in what was then known as the Belgian Congo). In the years 1955 and 1956 more animals came, and the first calf for the Zoo was born in 1960. After several decades of unsuccessful breeding attempts, a calf was born in 2005. The birth of Nuru has been an exciting boost to the Zoo’s efforts at helping to preserve this endangered species.
The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of Zebras, it is most closely related to the Giraffe. The Okapi and the Giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.
The Okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has an average body length of about 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Male Okapis have short, hair-covered horns called ossicones, less than 15 cm (5.9 in) in length. Females possess hair whorls, and ossicones are absent.
Okapis are primarily diurnal but may be active for a few hours in darkness. They are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi.
The gestational period for females is around 440 to 450 days, and usually a single calf is born. The juveniles are kept in hiding, and nursing takes place infrequently. Juveniles start taking solid food from about three months, and weaning takes place at six months.
Okapis inhabit canopy forests at altitudes of 500–1,500 m (1,600–4,900 ft). They are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they occur across the central, northern and eastern regions.