Species: O. johnstoni
Other Names: Okapi, Forest Giraffe, Congolese Giraffe, Zebra Giraffe
Okapis are active mostly during the day, and are plant-eaters that feed on leaves, buds, grasses, fruits and other plants.
They mostly live individually, preferring to be by themselves, except when it’s time to mate.
Female okapis gestate for around 450 days, after which they give birth to a single calf. Babies can stand on their own within a half hour of being born. Baby okapis have a long mane, which disappears by the time they are a year old. They will also begin developing the knobby ossicones on their head around this time.
The okapi grows to about 8 feet in length and up to 5 feet in height. It has a dark red or brownish coat, with striking white stripes on its haunches and legs and white on the sides of its face.
Okapis were known as far back as the 5th century BCE, although the European and Western world would not become aware of them until much later. For many years, a mysterious animal was rumored among Europeans to live in Africa, referred to as the “African Unicorn”.
European explorers who saw traces of or heard stories about Okapis were puzzled, as it seemed to have characteristics associated with donkeys, horses, zebras, and other hooved animals. Eventually, some striped skins and a skull were obtained by the British special commissioner in Uganda, Sir Harry Johnston.
The skull, when studied, showcased the relationship between the okapi and the giraffe. The word “okapi” comes from the languages of the people of the Congo region, including Mbuba and Lese Karo.