11 Rare Facts About Okapis

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Every day the world of animals increase along with increasing the encyclopedia of animals. Are you familiar with the word “OKAPI”? 

Well, it is a new name in the dictionary of animals along with its background. Although it existed since a long time, its discovery remained hidden due to the shy characteristics of this cute animal.

Okapi is a rare animal breed often known as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe or zebra giraffe. It was unknown to the world until the 20thcentury. For years, it was called as the African Unicorn. These forest-dwelling creatures are elusive.

It is an artiodactyl (even toned) mammal born in the Northeast in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. 

Despite the fact, Okapi has striped markings reminiscent of zebras, it is mostly compared with a giraffe.  

Okapi and Giraffes are the only living individuals from the family Giraffidae. 

Okapi is considered as a rare and fascinating animal and is also found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney’s Animal Kingdom keeps the okapi and welcomes its off springs, as this animal never fails to fascinate human beings. 

Okapi is about 1.5m i.e. 4.9 ft. tall at shoulder and has a normal body with a length of 2.5m i.e. 8.2ft. However, the weight of an okapi varies from 200 to 350 kg (which makes 440 to 770 lb.)

The physical appearance of this fascinating animal comprises of a long neck and extensive, adaptable ears. The jacket an okapi wears is of a chocolate to rosy dark color in contrast with the white even stripes with rings on the legs and white lower legs.  

Okapis can be easily distinguished from its nearest extant relative which is a giraffe. However, it is much smaller than a giraffe and shares some external similarities with the deer.

Male okapis have short, hair-shrouded, horn like bulges on their heads called ossicones (of 5.9 cm long). 

While, female okapis have hair whorls and ossicones are missing.   

 Okapi can be usually seen in daylight, yet they may be active in darkness for a few hours. 

They come near to one another only to breed. 

Okapis are herbivores; they feed themselves with tree leaves, buds, grass, fruits, and fungi. 

Trench in males and estrus in females does not rely on the season. In captivity, estrous cycles repeat after every 15 days. The gestational period is of around 440 to 450 days in length. A single calf is born during this period. 

The adolescents are kept hidden and nursing is taken casually. Adolescents start taking solid food from three months and weaning takes place after 6 months. 

Males migrate constantly, while the females are inactive. Okapis mark their territories in a weird way.  They mark it with their urines, whereas the females use common excretion sites.

Grooming is an essential part of this animals lifestyle usually focusing on the earlobes and the neck. They groom themselves, by rubbing their necks against trees leaving a brown fluid behind.

Female okapis get sexually mature at about one and half years of age, while the male reach a maturity stage after they are two years old.  

I am sure this rare animal will win your hearts. Here are some features of this incredible animal that one must know: 

1.Great at playing hide and seek.

Okapis have amazing natural defenses against their predators. Their predators include the leopards and the human beings. Humans are mostly the main threat to them. 

They have large ears that helps them to identify any sounds, whereas the unique brown and white stripes on their rump act as a camouflage in the jungle. In order to avoid leopards, they will stay at one place which is their nest for first six to nine weeks of their life, which as compared to the other calves is a much longer period.

2. Stinky feet.

Okapis have scent glands on each of their foot, which leaves a tar like substance to indicate their territories. 

3. They can lick their own Ears (weird yet amazing no?).

Okapi’s tongue measures up to 18 inches long. They use it to trap the leaves around on which they feed, along with grooming themselves and their calves. The tongue of this adorable creature is long enough to wash its eyelids. The tongues are purplish in color.

4. They were known as the African Unicorn.

They are one of the shyest animals as it is almost impossible to see a Okapi in the wild. Europeans have heard tales of this animal but only the natives of the Congo are able to see it. As a result, people developed almost mythical stories about it and was known as the African unicorn. 

Explorers later confirmed its existence but they had no luck in spotting its stripes. Sir Harry Johnston researched on this animal and its scientific name was thus named after him, that is Okapi.

Okapis and giraffes grew apart from 16 million years ago. Before the existence of the current forms of the modern okapis and giraffes. These two species shared common ancestors, which are known as Canthumeryx.  

This ancestor had distinctive features such as a neck longer than the okapi, but shorter than a giraffe’s. Each species has now grown in to their own special kind to adapt their habitat from their ancestors which includes the physical features along with their external behaviors.  

5. They feed on 100 kind of species of plants.

Okapis prefer to feed in the tree fall gaps. This animal is known to feed on over 100 species of plants. Some of them are known to be poisonous to humans or any other breed of animals. These 100 species of plants dominate the diet of an okapi. 

Staple foods includes shrubs and lianas. The major portion of their diet are woody “dicotyledonous” species. A few plants are not eaten regularly i.e. monocotyledonous plants. 

The okapis living in the Ituri forests mainly eats Violaceae, Flacourtiaceae, Rubiaceae, and Acanthaceae. 

6. They are endangered (this is something we should be sad about).

 IUCN categorizes the okapis as an endangered species. Although, it is fully protected under Congolese Law. Regardless of this, the population of okapi have declined at a significant rate due to the occurrence of several threats. 

One of the major threats include logging and human settlement. An extensive hunting for its bush meat and skin and illegal mining has led to extreme decline in its population. 

Organizations such as the Okapi Conservation Project, established in 1987, works towards the aim of preservation of the okapi. A couple of seminars, and organizations work as a team with an aim to discuss alternatives for captivated okapis and arrange support for okapi preservation. Many zoos have kept them as captive. 

7. They eat charcoal (only sometimes. However, it sounds CRAZY!) 

These species are on a diverse diet which includes seeds, fruits and 100 different types of leaves, occasionally fungi is also included. In order, to obtain some important minerals, okapis lick clays which they find at the riverbanks, and eat charcoal off scorched trees.

8. Babies can go without pooping for a month

Nobody knows why, but infant okapis do not poo unless they are about four to ten weeks old.

Still unsure how much the unconventional circumstances of zoos influence this time duration.

In the late 1970s, many infant okapis suffered from rectal prolapse because of the bored mothers licking their young’s rectal territory. 

Fecal materials are reason of attraction for predators, so perhaps the nonappearance of bowel movements in the youngs helps to conceal the infant scent from leopards and other carnivores.

9. Has a very low voice.

Okapis are not one of the most vocal animals. However they are not completely mute either. The sound of their coughs bleeds and whistles are heard more often.

Mothers also communicate with their infants by releasing infra-sounds. Infra-sounds are the noises, which fall below the normal audio frequency of human beings.  When an okapi produces an infrasound, it observes the creature’s body language. As they produce ultra-low frequency calls as a response, the animals rapidly jerk their heads upward and point their noses.

10. Do not have the same number of chromosomes:

Human beings generally contain 23 pairs or 46 pairs of chromosomes. Dogs produce 78, whereas 38 chromosomes are produced in cats. 

However, okapis are different in this case. They produce 46 per cell; a few specimens’ features about 44 or 45. 

What is strange about okapis is that their typical chromosomes count appear perfect and healthy. With 45 chromosomes, okapis look normal and so do their off springs.

Scientists are still trying to figure out what’s going on.

11. Unusual walk.

Giraffes and okapis differ from the majority of the four-legged animals by the way they walk. For instance, to get from point A to point B most four legged animals will simultaneously move one leg on the left side.

Whereas, okapis and Giraffes swing both right limbs forward at the same time, and then they will do the same with their left limbs. But, when there is a need for speed both the species will gallop like a horse.

An Okapi is a rare animal found especially in the rainforests of the Congo region. It is unique species of mammal that everyone must know about before it gets extinct.