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The Okapi Is a Unique Relative of the Giraffe

Okapis are mammals that originate and live in the Ituri Rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Scientists say this animal looks like a cross between a deer and a zebra. However, its nickname is the “forest giraffe" and it is a relative of the giraffe. The Latin name of an okapi is Okapia Johnstoni.

The okapi is a herbivore and uses its tongue in the same way as the giraffe to get leaves from branches. The diet of an Okapi consists of fruits, buds, leaves, twigs, and other vegetation. Its four stomachs help it digest all of these foods. The tallest an Okapi can grow is around five feet. Due to its brown and white stripes, an Okapi can camouflage to look like streaks of sun shining through the trees in the rainforest.

Okapis can live up to 30 years in captivity and usually weighs 440 to 660 pounds. The International Union for Conservation reports that the Okapi is on the endangered list and scientists are in a race to save them.

This species has horns just like the giraffe, but they are shorter and have skin covering their horns. For females, they have knob-shaped bumps. Okapis are active when there is sun. These animals use two ways to mark territory: one way is by spreading their urine on the border of the territory, while the second is by leaving sticky marks on the turf with their hooves.

Okapi females can have one baby per pregnancy. The calf can walk 30 minutes after birth, but cannot excrete feces until one month old. If they do secrete them, this can be dangerous as the scent can attract predators. Adult Okapis do not vocalize much until they are about to breed, but the calves will bleat, cough, and whistle while their mom is away. The mother mostly communicates through infrasound, which can be undetectable to the human ear. Females are protective of their calf and will stomp their hoove on the ground when predators approach. When calves turn six months, they will have to take care of themselves.

The Okapi is a unique animal and cousin of the giraffe. Their abilities and their awesome features are interesting. Despite their unique traits, Okapis are currently on the endangered list and some of their threats are leopards and hunters. Scientists don’t know how many are in the wild but it is important to protect these creatures and conserve their habitats in the future to allow these animals to thrive.

[Source: National Geographic]

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