OKAPI – Okapia johnstoni


Okapi facts: Okapis weigh 462 to 550 pounds (210 to 250 kilograms) and stand 5 to 5.6 feet (150 to 170 centimeters) at the shoulder. Females are taller than males.

Geographic range: Okapis are restricted to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Okapi habitat: The okapi lives in tropical lowland forest near water.

What does okapi eat: Okapis feed on more than 100 species of plants, including some that are poisonous to humans. They also eat ferns, fungi, fruit, and grasses. Okapis ingest charcoal from trees burned by lightning. They use well-worn paths to travel between feeding sites.

Behavior and reproduction: Most active during the day. Not territorial, but males will fight for dominance. Okapis are usually silent but will make coughing sounds during rutting (mating) season. Okapi young are more vocal and make coughing and bleating sounds like a lamb. They groom one another and exhibit playful behavior.

Okapis give birth to a single calf from August to October after about fifteen months of pregnancy. Females retreat into the dense forest growth to give birth. Protective mothers warn off trespassers by beating the ground with their front legs. Lifespan is thirty years in captivity. The main predator of the okapi is the leopard.

Okapis and people: Zoos keep and breed okapis today. When the species was initially discovered, zoos lost many okapis in transport because they were unable to survive the long boat and train rides.

Conservation status: Okapis are not currently threatened, but are protected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because their distribution range is so limited. Populations are healthy.