Nothing Like It On Earth

An okapi (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Okapi at Disney Animal Kingdom, Florida (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

What animal has a body like a mule, stripes like a zebra, and a face like a giraffe?  This one:  the okapi (Okapia johnstoni).

I’d never heard of an okapi (pronounced “o KAH pee”) until I learned that Penn State scientists are leading the effort to sequence the giraffe’s genome.  The project is looking at the okapi’s genes because it’s the giraffe’s only living relative.  Who knew!

Okapis are forest dwelling mammals who eat plants and spend most of the time alone except when breeding. They reproduce slowly as the female is pregnant more than a year (440-450 days) before giving birth to a single foal.  Unlike giraffes, only male okapi’s have horns.

Male okapi showing off its stripes and horns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Male okapi showing off its stripes and horns (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There are okapis in zoos around the world but in the wild they live in only one place, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the center of Africa, where they are protected by law but still threatened by deforestation, human encroachment, and poaching.  Lawlessness is a threat to okapi survival.  They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

To save the okapi, John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project in 1987 to buy land, set up conservation zones and work with local people to protect the okapi and improve the lives of those who live near it.

The project not only reduces human pressure on okapi habitat but relationships within the community save local lives.  Read about the project and its history at Mongabay: 30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi.

Take a look at this animal. There is nothing else like it on Earth.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Nothing Like It On Earth

  1. When I was a small child, in mid ’60s, a relative of mine in Germany sent me a toy stuffed okapi! I was the only child anywhere with this animal. I still have it. Always loved it!

  2. Enjoyed story on Coopers Hawk. Been to Hueston Woods. They have raptor refuge there. Friend lives in Fairfield, Ohio.

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