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