Picture this: Summer, 1947. A rancher discovers inexplicable debris in
The mere sight of a beautiful Okapi delights children and adults alike. This former cryptid gained zoological acceptance about a century ago. Once considered a legend, the Okapi lives and breathes in small numbers. Here are some facts about this amazing creature.
1. Don’t judge the Okapi by its looks: Although the Okapi resembles a deer or an antelope with zebra-striped legs, its closest relative is the giraffe. The giraffe is much taller than the Okapi, but the two creatures share a similar face shape, eye shape, prehensile tongue, and tooth arrangement.
2. Okapis stand within 30 minutes of birth: These animals are very mature from birth. They can stand almost immediately and nurse within an hour of birth. One more odd bit of trivia — Okapis don’t poop until they are four to eight weeks old. This weird feature may help the Okapi stay hidden from predators until they’re old enough to physically defend themselves.
3. The Okapi’s home: This animal is almost exclusively found in the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Okapi thrives in dense, tropical rainforests with plenty of roaming space. Other than young Okapi who still hang with mom, this animal is usually solitary in nature.
4. The Okapi was offically recognized in 1901: Starting around 1890, European settlers’ tales of this unusual looking creature were treated as legendary. Most evidence was based upon track marks, but zoologist Sir Harry Johnston was able to prove the animal’s existence by securing an Okapi skull and skins in 1901. The Okapi’s reclusive nature is to blame for this delayed removal from cryptid status. Okapis rarely come into contact with humans and spend most of their time shrouded in dense foliage.
5. Okapis are unicorns: One of the reasons that Okapis are still considered mythical, despite proof of their existence, is their unicorn horn. These animals display a small, skin-covered horn in between their ears.
6. Okapis are vegetarian: The Okapi diet is 100% plant-based in nature. They graze all day long, often consuming 45-60 pounds of leaves, twigs, fruits, and other vegetation each day. Okapis have four stomachs, which allows them to digest all this roughage. Clay from riverbeds also supplements the Okapi diet with minerals and salts.
7. Okapis are practically blind: This animal doesn’t depend on its poor eyesight but on other senses, such as smell and hearing. The Okapi’s ears are incredibly sensitive, which allows them to hear predators coming from great distances.
8. Their conservation status is precarious: For many years, the Okapi was listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2013, the Okapi was switched over to “endangered” status. Their population has been sliced in half since 1995, and the projections are growing worse by the year.
9. Humans are the biggest Okapi threat: Deforestation and climate change has led to a dwindling Okapi population, which is unable to flourish and feed without a thick shroud of shrubbery. Poaching is also a very large contributor to the Okapi’s falling numbers.
10. The Okapi is still the Congo’s National Symbol: The Okapi appears on the Congolese franc notes. Its likeness also appears on the logos of the Congolese Wildlife Authority and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).