Okapi calf emerges for the first time at Chester Zoo

Chester zoo’s shy okapi calf took his first steps out onto exhibit this week. Born on April 30th this year the calf known as Usala had not yet been outside of his nest.

The mother of the calf is called, Stuma while the father is known as Dicky.

Okapi

Fiona Howe, Okapi keeper at Chester Zoo said, “Okapis are rather secretive animals and, up until now, Usala has been out of the spotlight, cozied up in his nest. But thanks to the support of mum Stuma, he’s now starting to explore.”

“Stuma is an excellent mum and she’s doing a great job of helping her new charge gain confidence on his legs. She can often be seen offering him an affectionate nuzzle as reassurance that he’s doing well,” she added.

Okapi

Okapis are a rare species whose numbers continue to decline due to habitat loss and hunting for meat in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are related to giraffes and are so secretive that science was not aware of them until the beginning of the 20th century.

Luckily Usula should always be able to find his mum due to a unique adaptation which Howe explained, “A trademark of the okapi is the stripy markings on their legs; designed to help offspring follow them through deep forest. And that’s exactly where you’ll tend to see Usala – sticking closely to his mum’s legs as she moves around foraging for food.”

Okapi

Okapi births are even rarer. Chester has only bred this species twice with the other occasion being in 2012. Usula joins a group of just 14 other okapis which are part of UK breeding programme for this species.

Chester is working to develop a conservation strategy for this species with the help of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s giraffe and okapi specialist advisory group. They also support the DRC Wildlife Authority in the work that they undertake to preserve this species in the Ituri Forest.

Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

By Cale Russell

TheAnimalFacts.com is a testament to Cale’s commitment to the education of people around the world on the topic of animals and conservation, through the sharing of topical and newsworthy information.

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