L.A. Zoo celebrates its first birth of okapi, a ‘forest giraffe’

An okapi and her calf at the Los Angeles Zoo.
(Tad Motoyama / Los Angeles Zoo)

The Los Angeles Zoo this week announced its first birth of a rare okapi -- also known as a forest giraffe.

The calf was born Aug. 26 but until now was kept out of public view while it bonded with his mother.

Okapis are shy, with velvety fur, zebra-like black and white strips on their legs, and a prehensile tongue that can be as long as 18 inches, according to the zoo. They are the closest living relative to the giraffe and are found in the forests of Central Africa.

Adult okapis grow to more than 6 feet tall and weigh between 400 and 700 pounds.


It took more than 20 years for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens to bring an okapi to its grounds. In 2005, it received the first, Jamal, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., and welcomed a breeding partner, Baraka, from the Denver Zoo in 2010.

“Being able to have a species like this breed in our zoo is a real testament to the hard work of the staff and their dedication to okapi conservation,” John Lewis, director of Los Angeles Zoo, which works with the Okapi Conservation Project, said in statement.

The wild okapi population has dropped from 40,000 to 10,000 over the past decade, according to the L.A. Zoo. Eighty-five of the forest mammals are living in accredited zoos.

Guests can now view the okapi calf in his habitat from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.


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