Okapi Fact File


The okapi resembles a giraffe with a short neck. The okapi has a dark red back. On their legs are distinctive white bands. These make the okapi look like a zebra from a distance. The okapi has a white patch on its face. The nose and mouth area is back. The okapi has small horns covered in skin known as ossicones. These are slanted back so they do not snag on trees. Their skin is oily which means water slips right off meaning they stay warm on a rainy day.

Okapis have large ears which can pick up very low sounds. They have a long dark-bluish tongue. This is prehensile meaning it can be to used to pick buds and leaves off trees.

A typical okapi will stand 1.5-2m (4.9-6.5ft) high. From head to tail the okapi measures 1.9 to 2.5m (6.2 to 8.2ft). The tail comprises 30 to 42cm (11.8-16.5in) of this length. The okapi has a weight range of between 200 and 350kg (440 to 770lb). Females are generally slightly larger than males.


The okapi is a herbivore. The majority of their diet is leaves, twigs and shoots. They also eat berries, fruits and fungi. Okapis have a diet which consists of over 100 plants.

To obtain the minerals they need okapis ingest clay found near rivers in their habitat and charcoal from trees burnt by lightning.


Scientific Name

Okapi johnstoni

Conservation Status



1.5-2m (4.9-6.5ft)





1.9-2.5m (6.2-8.2ft)


30 years



-- AD --



The okapi is found exclusively in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Specifically they are found in the Ituri rainforest.


They live in dense tropical rainforest and montane rainforests. They are surrounded on all 4 sides of their home range by unsuitable habitat. As such they are confined to the Ituri rainforest. 1/5 of this area is a world heritage site known as the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.


The okapi can breed all year. They cycle every 13 to 16 days. When cycling the female will be followed by a male. This is the only time where she will vocalise. Occasionally two males will become interested in one female. At this time they will butt each other and fight with their necks.

The triumphant male will mate the female. After 14 to 16 months there will be one calf born or in rare cases two. The baby will stand within the first 30 minutes. By the time it has been alive for an hour it will have had its first drink.

The baby will create a nest where it will spend the majority of the next 2 months. Mom will go out and find food then return to feed the calf. This system means it will not be as vulnerable to predators and the calf can focus on rapidly growing. For the first 12 to 14 months the okapi will have a fringe of hair down the spine. This is the only difference between them and adults.

Okapi’s feed on solids for the first time at 3 weeks. The calf’s weight will triple before they are 2 months old. Most calves are weaned at 6 months old, some suckle till one year old though.

The calf is fully grown by 3 years old.



The okapi is preyed upon by the leopard. Smaller cats are also able to eat a baby okapi.

Okapis have their own secret language. Humans can hear the coughs, bleats and whistles they often use. Okapis make a range of low frequency sounds to communicate with their calf that predators cannot hear.

These animals are most active during the day. They will walk around the same tracks daily searching for food.

When okapis walk through an area they distribute a sticky substance from a scent gland on each leg. This marks their territory and allows other okapis to track them.

Quick facts

The okapi was first identified in 1901.

Okapis are also known as forest zebras.

Photo Credits


Okapia johnstoni4″. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Okapia_johnstoni4.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Okapia_johnstoni4.jpg


Okapi map” by Jürgen – nl:Afbeelding:Leefgebied_okapi.JPG. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Okapi_map.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Okapi_map.jpg


Okapi2″. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Okapi2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Okapi2.jpg


Mallon, D., Kümpel, N., Quinn, A., Shurter, S., Lukas, J., Hart, J.A., Mapilanga, J., Beyers, R. & Maisels, F. 2015. Okapia johnstoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T15188A51140517. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T15188A51140517.en. Downloaded on 20 May 2020.

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