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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)

Okapia johnstoni (P.L. Sclater, 1901)

Range: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Habitat: Rainforest, Dry Tropical Forest
Diet: Leaves, Grasses, Fruit, Fungi
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Gestation period of 440 days, single calf is precocial and capable of standing within thirty minutes of birth, the calf is left hidden in dense vegetation until it is capable of following its mother.  Calves are weaned at 6 months and reach sexual maturity at 2 years
Lifespan: 15-20 Years, 33 Years (Maximum, Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Near Threatened

  • Body length 2.5 meters, 1.65 meters tall at the shoulder, weight 180-315 kilograms; females tend to be slightly taller than males
  • Males possess short, knobby horns, similar to those of a giraffe; the neck is relatively long, and the ears are large and flexible; also as with giraffes, the tongue is long, black, and prehensile
  • The short, glossy fur is brown or dark grey, sometimes looking red or purple in certain lighting; the legs (especially the hind legs) are white with dark cross-stripes, resembling those of a zebra
  • The okapi is the only close living relative of the giraffe; it is sometimes called the "forest giraffe"
  • Some of the plants eaten by wild okapis are known to be toxic; charcoal has been found in their dung, suggesting that they eat the charcoal to detoxify the plants
  • Possibly because of the secretive nature of the animal, okapis were once believed to be nocturnal; it is now thought that they are active mid-morning and late afternoon, resting during the day
  • Males and females are not territorial, and their home ranges may overlap; ranges are marked by urinating on the legs and leaving a scent trail throughout the range
  • Similar to elephants and some other large mammals, okapi communicate with infrasonic sounds, too low to be heard by human ears
  • Apart from humans, leopards are the only significant predator of adults; smaller carnivores (servals, golden cats) may take calves
  • Due to their remote habitat and secretive nature, okapis are poorly studied in the wild; most of what is known about the species comes from zoo specimens
  • Despite being one of the largest mammals in Central Africa, the okapi was not known to western science until 1901, when it was discovered by British colonial administrator Sir Harry Johnston

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