Is it a Zebra? Is it a Giraffe? Is it a Deer? Oh, look it’s the Okapi. A very weird but wonderful creature which at the moment is currently listed as endangered. With most Okapi measuring an average of 8ft these creatures are in fact related to the Giraffe and not the Zebra as some might presume. Their big ears are similar to the Giraffe which enables them to have great hearing abilities. Therefore making it hard to study the animal in its natural habitat. Located in the Ituri Forest, Central Africa the zebra markings that are on this creature enables it to blend in with the rainforest’s low light environment.
The Okapi are mammals and will weigh roughly about 200 to 250 kilogrammes. Their tongue just like the giraffe is very long measuring about 12 inches. This is used in order to reach tall branches and strip trees of leaves and buds. They do also graze amongst the forest floor in search of leaves, shoots, buds, fruits, berries. They have also even been known to eat clay and burnt charcoal which is most likely for minerals. An interesting fact for you is that the Okapi’s tongue is that long it can, in fact, clean its own ears, only one of the few mammals that have this ability.
Okapi numbers are very low in the wild as a matter of fact only 25,000 exist in the wild. This is due to humans hunting these rare and unusual species. The only animal that hunts for Okapi is the leopard. This is because other ground dwelling creatures would easily be heard by the Okapi, the reason why the leopard is the only real predator to the Okapi is due to its arboreal nature sitting in the trees. The biggest
t threat to Okapi though is deforestation, this is reducing the amount of food that is available to them. Other cats will also hunt for young Okapi to take advantage. Usually, these mammals do not travel very far at all. males will make their territory which will typically be about a 2.5 miles radius. Females will travel less usually only 0.5 miles per day. The reason why the males travel a much further distance is to keep their territory marked and make sure that other males aren’t trying to invade. Male Okapi will only let females through in order to eat. They are usually solitary animals until it comes to breeding season and they need to find a mate.
When breeding season comes around the males will fight a lot over territory or to compete for a female. When the two males do meet the Okapi will swing their necks at each other just like giraffes until one backs down due
to injury or submission. Scent glands are located on the Okapi’s feet meaning they will always leave a trail no matter where they go. They will also spread urine and rub necks with trees to mark their territory. When ready to breed females will produce a “Chuff” sound which in fact is so low that no human can hear it.
The females will be in gestation for up to 16 months. The females will retreat to a den which has dense vegetation in order to hide the calf. Females will have only 1 calf per year. She will go out and hide the calf amongst the vegetation. Returning regularly to allow the calf to nurse, the calf can stand within half an hour of been born. By that time they will venture off into the vast woodland and find a sheltered more protected nesting spot. They
mother and nurse will stay together for the next 2 months which will help the calf develop more rapidly but also be protected from hungry predators. Unlike most hoofed animals Okapi don’t share the same close bond with their young as other hoofed animals. The young will be weaned at 6 months but won’t reach adult size until 3 years.
Interesting fact you didn’t know before reading this!!!
The Okapi before 1900 was known as the forest zebra because of their shy nature they were hard to spot, the only way the Okapi got discovered was due to Harry Johnston who sent 2 zebra like skin samples to London zoo which was analysed resulting in a new species been discovered.