Okapi born at Brookfield Zoo

Baby Okapi at Brookfield Zoo April 27, 2011. (Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society)
May 24, 2011 3:28:12 PM PDT
A zebra has four legs and stripes. A giraffe has four legs and a long neck. If you were to mix them together, what would you get? It just might be an okapi.

Brookfield Zoo's new okapi was born on April 27th. She's a healthy calf and she's gaining weight right on schedule.

"We weigh her every day just to make sure she's growing as we would expect her to. Today she weighed one hundred and ten pounds which is nearly double what she weighed when she was born," Amy Roberts, curator of mammals at Brookfield Zoo, said.

So she's healthy but you have to wonder about an okapi's appearance. They have zebra stripes on the bottom and a giraffe's head on top.

"It's definitely not a zebra. That's the most common misconception because of the stripes. They literally are the only living relative of the giraffe. They are sort of a dwarf forest giraffe," Roberts said.

They have a 16 inch long blue tongue that grabs leaves and also cleans ears, eyes and nose. The young female is just now starting to go outside with her 8-year-old mother, Semliki. So even though the little girl isn't outside all the time your chances of seeing her are getting better.

The Western World did not know about the okapi until about 100 years ago when one was discovered in a rainforest in the Congo.

"The people who lived in that rainforest know about them but western science didn't become aware of them until 1901. And we had the first okapi birth here at Brookfield Zoo in 1959," Roberts said.

That was also the first okapi birth in a North American zoo. Since then there have been 30 okapi copies and recopies. It's the giraffe cousin which for some reason has zebra stripes.

"It's theorized that the markings on the flanks help camouflage them," Roberts said.

The new baby will live at Brookfield Zoo for about two years before moving on to another zoo.


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