animal okapi

The Marvelous Journey of the Animal, Okapi

This blog post will explore the unique and remarkable process that the animal, okapi, undergoes when they are pregnant. In addition, we will cover topics such as:

  • What is an okapi, and where do they come from? 
  • How do male and female okapis mate and reproduce offspring? 
  • Okapi gestation period 
  • The physical changes that occur in both the mother and baby during this time
  • The okapi habitat, its population, and conservation status
  • What is being done to help conserve this magnificent creature for future generations?
  • We’ll also look at the role of zookeepers with pregnant animals and the modern way of taking care of animals. 

Get ready to be amazed by the mysterious workings of the animal, okapi

animal okapi
Okapi’s have long tongues since they are related to giraffe!

What are okapi

Many people wonder, “what are okapi”? Okapi may look like a ziraffelope (part zebra, part giraffe, and part antelope), but they are their own species. They are the only living relative to a giraffe! The animal okapi shares many features with giraffes, including their 14-15 month gestation period. There are many fascinating facts about okapi, and zoologists continue to learn more about the species each day. 

What are your favorite okapi animal facts?  

Okapi were not known to the Western world until Sir Henry Johnston discovered them in 1901. The okapi scientific name, Okapia johnstoni, is in Sir Henry Johnston’s honor. Their zebra-like stripes on their front legs and hindquarters act as camouflage as the sun shines through trees down onto the okapi. Despite those zebra-like stripes, okapi are related to giraffes. Looking at their head, you can see quite a few features they have in common with giraffes. They both have large ears and eyes, they have a tongue that is up to 18 inches long, and male okapi have ossicones like giraffes! There are so many okapi animal facts, but one of the most unique characteristics of an okapi is that newborn calves do not defecate for the first 60 days of their life! This helps prevent predators from tracking down the newborn. Since animal okapi are the fastest growing ungulates, by the time that 60 days is up, the calf is big enough to defend itself. 

For more fun facts and information about okapi, check out this article by San Diego Zoo.

What does an okapi eat?  

Okapi are herbivores, which means they strictly eat plants. They eat up to 65 pounds of leaves, sticks, and fruits daily. They have been seen eating charcoal which is believed to help neutralize the toxic plants that they eat as well as be a mineral supplement for them which is one of the fascinating okapi adaptations. At Tanganyika Wildlife Park, our okapi get a grain diet full of nutrients they need to stay healthy, as well as produce and alfalfa. Moyo, our female okapi, loves carrots and sweet potatoes the most. Whereas Udumu, our male okapi, prefers his grain. One of the fun things to do in wichita, kansas is to meet the okapi at Tanganyika and feed them some of their favorite food. 

How do male and female animal okapi reproduce? 

Okapi are solitary animals, which means they don’t stay in herds with other okapi. Most species only have an estrous cycle once a month, but female okapi have an estrous cycle every approximately 13 days and it will last 3-5 days. This is because it is so rare for okapi to encounter one of the opposite sex. So with their more frequent estrous cycles, they have higher odds of reproducing when they come across a male. An okapi baby is around 45 pounds when first born and will triple in weight by the time it is two months old. 

How long is an animal okapi gestation period? 

The animal okapi has a gestation of 14-15 months, the same as a giraffe. They only give birth to one calf at a time, but twins have been recorded once. Since okapi births are rare along with having a long-awaited gestation period, each okapi birth is extra special and highly celebrated. You can keep up with the latest okapi baby news, plus look at pictures of one of the cutest baby animals.


Come see the animal, okapi, on a Giraffe and Friends Behind the Scenes Tour at Tanganyika Wildlife Park. 

Okapi at Tanganyika Wildlife Park

Where does the okapi live

If you were to Google “Where does the okapi live,” you will only get one answer, and that’s the Democratic Republic of Congo. The animal okapi is the national and cultural symbol of the Democratic Republic of Congo and has been protected since 1933. The biggest threats to the species and its survival are habitat deforestation and poaching. 

How many okapis are left in the world?  

Approximately 10,000-15,000 okapi are remaining. Their numbers continue declining due to deforestation, poaching, and mining in the Ituri Forest. There has not been a range-wide population survey conducted since 2013, so their numbers could be much lower.    

What is the okapi habitat? 

The okapi habitat is the dense, tropical rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest is rich in gold and diamond mines, which leads to a lot of human activity in the forest. The forest is also home to forest elephants, chimpanzees, aardvarks, and more. One of the important okapi adaptations developed from living in the dense forest is their elusive nature. They are so shy and elusive that it’s nearly impossible to observe one in their natural habitat.   

Are okapi endangered? 

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists the animal okapi as endangered. Over a span of about 15 years, the okapi population plummeted by over 50%. 


Their fur is oily so that water slides right off on rainy days. Also…look at that tongue 😝 #okapi #okapisoftiktok #okapis #zookeeper #endangeredspecies #rareanimals

♬ Funny Song – Cavendish Music

How are zoos helping the animal, okapi

There is only approximately 100 okapi in total in the U.S., with approximately 30 zoos housing okapi. Each okapi born in human care is extremely important to not only the zoo population but also the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is not much known about animal okapi behavior in their natural habitat, so zoologists can use what they learn from okapi in human care to apply it to help save the ones in the Congo. 

How do zoos help animals?  

Having animals in zoos, it allows facilities to help connect people with animals and educate people about the species and their status in their natural habitat. That may be through conservation days, zookeeper chats, or a behind-the-scenes where you meet an okapi. To save species, it’s important to have breeding programs in place to develop a solid and stable population in human care. Conservation organizations, like the Okapi Conservation Project, are in the field educating local communities about the animals and how to help them. They are also working with the governments to help protect the species and save their natural habitat. With all of these components working together, a species can be saved.  

How do zookeepers take care of pregnant animals? 

When taking care of a pregnant animal, it’s especially important to monitor behavior and physical changes closely. By monitoring these things, you can know if any diet or housing changes need to be made to keep mom comfortable and healthy or when the baby may be about to make its appearance. There may be a lot of new training involved to allow for ultrasounds to determine pregnancy. Animal pregnancies may require a lot of housing preparation to get ready for the baby. For example, bedding down a stall for an animal to give birth on or baby-proofing the stalls.   

How can you help okapi? 

There are many ways to help the animal okapi. Whether that’s donating to the Okapi Conservation Project, recycling an old cell phone, or just spreading the word about okapi. One of the most unique, wildly different ways to save okapi is by visiting Tanganyika Wildlife Park and meeting the okapi that calls Tanganyika home! By booking the ultimate weekend package or by doing the giraffe and friends experience, you may have the opportunity to learn about the okapi, feed them, and maybe even pet them. 

The okapi, endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, are one of the shyest and most elusive creatures on the planet. They are listed as endangered, and their numbers continue to decline, but through education and breeding programs, zoos worldwide are working hard to save them. The Okapi Conservation Project is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, educating local communities, providing community assistance, and working to protect the okapi that calls the Ituri Forest home. By visiting Tanganyika Wildlife Park, you can help save the okapi while seeing the okapi that calls Tanganyika home, Moyo, and Udumu! 

animal okapi

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