Some of you must wonder, what is an okapi? Well, take a look at the picture on the right! It is a strange-looking animal, to say the least! Now I am going to share with you, 20 facts about the okapi to help you impress your inner circles of friends.
By the way, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, and in response to your next question, the picture has not been doctored with Photoshop or with any other software for that matter! The Okapis do exist!
I have outlined here some basics along with fun and weird facts concerning the okapis! So, without further ado, let’s get acquainted with the okapi!
What a Strange Looking Animal!
First off, when you get to see an okapi up close, you’ll notice that it looks more like a cross between a zebra, a giraffe, and even a donkey! The coat of the okapi is of a brownish color with white stripes on his hind and front legs, along with a face that shares some features with the giraffe, and the okapi’s overall shape is very similar to a donkey or some will say an antelope.
The okapi belongs to the family of the Giraffidae, and its closest relative is the giraffe, even though it looks more like a zebra at first glance!
Did you Know That:
- The okapi is the national symbol of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The okapis were entirely unknown before the 20th century. Their existence, as well as their acknowledgment as being a distinct species, came in 1901.
- The other names given to the okapi are the forest giraffe and the forest zebra, because of their appearance. However, the okapis bear another name: “African Unicorn”. Can you guess why? The name comes from the fact that many people believed the okapi was a myth!
- The okapi is listed as an endangered species because their numbers in the wild are estimated to be around 10,000-35,000.
Now, the next question becomes, where can I find the okapis? The Okapis live in the Ituri rainforest in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They prefer dense forests located at an altitude of 500 m to 1500 m (1,600-4,900 ft).
Basic Facts about the Okapi
- The body length is about 2.5 m (8.2 ft) with a height up to the shoulder of 1.5 m (4.9 ft).
- The okapis weigh between 200 and 350 kg (440-770 lbs).
- One interesting, as well as an odd fact, is that the females are bigger than the males.
- The okapi lifespan is 20-30 years.
- The gestation period lasts from 440 to 450 days. Only one calf is born and weighs between 14-30 kg (31-66 lbs).
- The Okapis are herbivores. Their favorite foods are shrubs and lianas. However, they are not picky eaters, since they can eat more than 100 different types of plants and some of which are poisonous to humans! They’ll get their minerals by eating sulfurous clay found on the riverbanks and charcoal coming from burnt trees!
- The only predators known to the okapis are humans and leopards.
Now, it is time to dig a little bit further:
The Weird Side of the Okapi
- After birth, the young okapis will spend the first few weeks of their life in hiding in the dense vegetation. They don’t defecate for the first 4-8 weeks of their life! Why? They don’t eat on a regular basis, and they want to avoid being detected by unwelcome guests since the smell would give away their location and attract predators!
- The okapis don’t have a very sophisticated communication system, mainly because their vocal cords are not well developed. They only emit three sounds! The first sound is a “chuff”, used as a contact call between okapis. The second sound is made by the female during the courtship period and is a “moaning” sound. The last sound, which is a “bleating”, is made by the youngsters when in distress.
- The males are always on the move, whereas the females are sedentary.
- They are solitary animals that only come together for mating.
- The okapis have excellent hearing, and they can move each ear separately. However, they have poor eyesight, but an incredible sense of smell. So, they will be able to hear and sniff the presence of a predator before they could even see it!
- The okapis have a unique way of walking which is very similar to the giraffes. They will move forward both legs from the same side of their body at once.
- Just like their cousins, the giraffes, the okapis use their long black prehensile tongues that can reach up to 38 cm (15 inches) for stripping the branches of their leaves, and also for grooming their eyelids and their ears.
- The males have horns called ossicones that can reach up to 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length, whereas the females have bumps instead of horns.
- The okapis only sleep 2 hours per day!
As you can see the okapis are unusual creatures that can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and within the dense rainforests. Furthermore, up until the beginning of the 20th century, the okapis were not considered to be a species but a myth!
At first sight, you might think that the okapis are a subspecies of the zebras, which is false! The okapis are a distinct species that share many similarities with their closest relative the giraffes, such as their long prehensile tongue, and their odd way of strolling.
If you are looking for some more weird and fun facts about the wildlife, to impress your colleagues at work, you should read the following: Boost your knowledge – facts about the African wildlife, by clicking here.
If you have any questions or thoughts about the okapis, please leave a comment below. I am always looking forward to your feedback!