Okapia johnstoni

Hidden in the shadows of Africa’s dense Ituri Forest lives a shy relative of the giraffe called the okapi. Like the giraffe, the okapi uses its long, prehensile tongue to pluck leaves and buds from trees.

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The foot-long tongue also allows the okapi to lick and clean its own eyelids and ears. An okapi also walks like a giraffe, swinging forward both legs on the same side of the body together. Okapis are solitary, only coming together to mate.

  • The zebra-like stripes on the back of the okapi’s legs are thought to serve as a “follow me” signal for calves.
  • Okapis defend their young from predators, such as the leopard, by kicking with their feet.
  • The okapi was only officially discovered in 1900.
Celebrate World Okapi Day on October 18!

okapi_1_tweet Based on the Okapi Conservation Project, the elusive okapi is a mysterious and secretive mammal that is nearly impossible to observe in the wild. Its existence is under serious threat from the impact of human activities. The okapi is entirely dependent on the forest sanctuary for its survival, and deforestation, along with poaching and mining, has contributed to its precipitous decline in recent decades. You can help by adopting an okapi through the Zoo’s A.D.O.P.T program, recycling your cell phone and supporting your local Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited Zoo!

Fact File

Species @ Risk Image
Species Survival Plan Image
pronunciationPronunciation: oh-KOP-ee
where to see themWhere to see them: Rhino Reserve
heightHeight: up to 8ft
weightWeight: 400-700lbs
lifespanLifespan: 33 yrs in captivity
habitatHabitat: Forest
dietDiet: Leaves, grass, fruit and fungi
exclamationRisk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN—Endangered)