The Animal Facts Editorial Team
July 6, 2023 10:26 pm
Chester, The United Kingdom
Zookeepers at Chester Zoo in the United kingdom have dubbed the birth of a rare okapi calf as ''not only a cause for celebration but also a significant milestone'' for the protection of this species. A rare animal found in Africa, the okapi is the closest relative of the giraffe.
Mother K’tusha (10) and dad Stomp (20) welcomed their calf on May 12th 2023. Since the birth, the new arrival named Arabi by keepers, has been safely tucked away in a behind the scenes area at the zoo. This week after some gentle encouragement from mum she stepped in to the wide world for the first time.
The name Arabi was taken from a village located in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in central Africa – a place where the zoo’s conservation partners are working to preserve the species in the only country on the planet where they can be found.
Hannah Owens, an okapi keeper at Chester Zoo, said: “Since being born just six weeks ago, Arabi has been bonding closely with mum K’tusha while snuggled away in her nest. Mum has been doing a fantastic job of feeding and nurturing her calf every day, and now that she has a little more confidence, Arabi decided it was time to explore the outside world. It didn’t take long before she was confidently stretching her legs in the sunshine!''
Okapi are thought to number just 10,000 individuals in the rainforests of central Africa. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature list the species as endangered a result of their low and shrinking population.
“Okapis are one of the least known and understood species on the planet, so every birth is incredibly special indeed. This energetic little calf is already showing lots of personality and it’s going to be a real privilege to watch her grow and become a vital part of the global population of her species.”
Okapi are often referred to as the 'forest giraffe.' This nickname comes from their close relation to the giraffe. In appearance their hindquarters primarily resemble those of a zebra. This coloration acts as camouflage in the thick forest they inhabit. Coupled with their elusive nature this meant they were not discovered by western science till 1901.
Mike Jordan, Animal and Plant Director at the zoo, added: “The okapi is the national symbol for the DRC and is protected under Congolese law. However, habitat loss, hunting for their meat and prolonged periods of conflict in the country make conservation initiatives in the wild incredibly challenging and dangerous. But despite that, we’ve been supporting okapi conservation in the region for nearly 20 years.''
This calf was born as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for the okapi, which aims to maintain a genetically diverse population in conservation zoos. Of the fourteen okapi which currently live across conservation zoos in the United Kingdom, six are in the care of Chester Zoo.
A rare okapi calf born on May 12th 2023 is pictured in its paddock at Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom. Image: © Chester Zoo
Image: © Chester Zoo
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