Okapi

This illusive animal remained unknown until the early 1900’s. With its horizontal stripes on the upper legs and horse-like head, the Okapi is often taken for a cousin of the zebra. The truth is that it is much closer related to the giraffe! The two animals share a lot of features. Just like the giraffe, the front part of the Okapis body is much higher than the rear. Both animals have a very long prehensile tongue.

The Okapi can even use its tongue to groom its ears! The males have two skin covered horns, which develop between one and five years of age. The Okapis neck is much shorter and thicker than the giraffes and it has also got a short, fringed mane.

Food

The Okapi is a herbivore who spends most of its time eating. It uses its long dark tongue to break the leaves off tree branches. It will also eat grasses and fruit. Okapi are ruminants. They swallow their food without chewing it. After a while the partly digested cud is regurgitated, chewed and swallowed again. The Okapi fills its need for minerals from eating sulfurous clay found along riverbanks.

Habitat

The dense, moist rainforest in northern Zaire is the main habitat of the Okapi. Here they are protected by the government.

Predators

The Okapi is a prey-animal of the leopard. It also faces threats from commercial poaching and habitat loss due to increased human settlement.

Social Structure

The Okapis roam alone most of the time. It is active during the day, and forage its way through the jungle on the well-trodden paths of its home range. Usually they are silent, but may make a soft coughing sound during the rut. Young animals are a lot noisier, as they communicate with their mothers. The mother is very protective of her young, and will warn an intruder by beating the ground with her forelegs.

Birth & Offspring

The young are born from August to October. After a gestation period of 14 – 15 months, the mother retreats into the dense forest to give birth to a single calf. The young lies hidden for several days. It is weaned after 6 months.

Senses

Okapis have a very keen sense of smell, which helps them find a breeding partner in the dense rainforest.

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