Can you guess what type of animal an okapi is?

Don't worry if you simply can't imagine which other animals it's related to. For years even top world animal experts couldn't figure it out. No one even knew they existed until early last century when they were discovered deep in central Africa.

Even then they were hard to see close up as they're very shy. They like living alone, only really getting together to breed. That's why ours at the zoo are in separate enclosures most of the time.

We keep our current pairing together during the day as they have good temperaments but are separating off for the night. You might see our female, Stuma, paired with the male, Dicky, for a few days at a time, when Stuma is in season and ready to breed. But otherwise they're kept apart. They prefer it that way.

The most striking thing about Okapi is their beautiful dark velvety fur and striped bottoms. But the biggest clue to which family they belong to is their long necks. They've got long tongues too, just like giraffes. Yes, believe it or not, Okapi are part of the giraffe family.

In March 2015 we were lucky enough to have a camera handy to catch the birth of our newest okapi Usuala, watch this fascinating arrival here 

Okapi numbers in the wild are going down, so we're involved in projects to breed more. Firstly ours are on the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, a carefully managed scheme overseeing the breeding of zoo animals in different countries.

We support the DRC Wildlife Authority through Gilman International Conservation Foundation's Okapi Conservation Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Okapi live in the beautiful Ituri Forest. Zoo staff are also contributing technically to the IUCN Giraffe and Okapi specialist advisory group to develop an Okapi conservation strategy. 

The forest is home to many rare species and the project team work in difficult, often dangerous conditions to ensure Okapi populations are protected. They also give local people conservation advice and teach them why it is so important for Okapi to survive into the future.

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Interesting facts

IUCN Status Endangered
Where they live Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo
Habitat Lowland equatorial rain forest
Size Height: 1.8m
Weight 227– 317kg
Threats Poaching from illegal bush meat hunting and for their skins
Scientific Name Okapia johnstoni