Okapi lives today only in the Congo, but also in zoos around the world


Okapi lives today only in the Congo, but also in zoos around the world
Back in 1869, the correspondent of the New York Herald (American daily newspaper published from 1835 to 1924 in New York City) learned from the inhabitants of the Congo that an unusual creature lives in the forests of the Congo. Residents of the Congo explained to the journalist that this animal was assembled from different parts of various animals. This very eccentric-looking animal was later named “Okapi”. The head resembles a giraffe, the body resembles an antelope, the hind legs and back have zebra-like patterns. The okapi has large flexible ears and a long black tongue that reaches the ears. The okapi is actually the only mammal that can lick ears with its tongue. The okapi is indeed a strange animal.
Okapi was almost unknown to the rest of the world until the beginning of the 20th century, even though it is a large and quite striking animal.
The English explorer and botanist Sir Henry Johnson was the first European who managed to see this mysterious and somewhat timid animal in 1901. The animal was given the official name “Okapia johnstoni” in honor of the English botanist. Even today, more than 100 years after the discovery, little is known about the way of life of the okapi in the natural environment (which is a close relative of the giraffe). This is contributed by the shy and timid nature of the animal, but also by the number, which is rapidly decreasing over time (due to deforestation and trade in okapi meat). Today it can still be seen freely in the forests of the Ituria region (D.R. Congo) where it is almost impossible for researchers to study the okapi due to the unstable political situation in the country. The okapi skillfully hides in dense forests, mostly due to the unusual dark purple color of its fur. Ears are the main defense weapon that the animal uses as a radar. Okapi is ready to run away from the enemy and hide in lush vegetation and near the smallest forest (thanks to its excellent hearing).
Richard Bodmer is a biologist from the University of Kent. Mr. Bodmer (Honorary Professor in Conservation Ecology) is one of the few scientists who has had the opportunity to study the okapi in its natural environment. Although this animal still hides many secrets for scientists, it has been established that the okapi is a great talker. These animals communicate with each other with sounds. The most characteristic is the sound used by males while courting females.
Okapi normally have a solitary life. They come close to each other only in the mating season and immediately after the end of the season these animals disperse. The female gives birth to a cub after 440 days. After 30 minutes, the cub is able to stand and suck its mother’s milk. The cub stays with the mother for 2 to 3 months in a garden nest. The cub starts its own life when it gets stronger. Mr. Bodmer shed a lot of light on the characteristics, way of life and habits of these animals. However, the lifespan of the okapi in the natural environment is still unknown. These animals in zoos can reach the age of 30 years.




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