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Okapi, a relative of giraffes, are dwindling in the wild due to human settlement and deforestation

By Kelli Bender
January 23, 2018 05:05 PM
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okapi-1
Credit: Tad Motoyama

She’s striped and creating hype! Meet the Los Angeles Zoo’s first female okapi calf.

Also known as the “forest giraffe,” the okapi is native to central Africa, but can also be found in California. On Nov. 10, the Los Angeles Zoo’s 14-year-old okapi Opey gave birth to her second child and the first female calf born at the zoo.

The currently unnamed baby recently made her public debut, where she showed off her confident strut and deep love for mom.

“There was a time not so long ago when having okapis in a Zoo was extraordinarily rare. But, due to Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs being so proactive and being able to breed these animals in zoos, the captive population is doing extremely well,” Josh Sisk, Curator of Mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo said in a statement. “By guests being able to see an okapi in a zoo, it starts a conversation about how we can save this species and their habitat in the wild.”

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Credit: Jamie Pham

It was the SSP that paired Opey and her mate, 3-year-old Jackson, a first-time dad, resulting in the celebrated birth of this female calf. Conservationists hope the new arrival inspires humans to care for wild okapi. The wild population, which lives in rainforests, is dangerously dwindling due to human settlement, deforestation and forest degradation.

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Okapi are known for the stunning stripes on their legs, which help calfs spot and stay close to their mothers in the thick vegetation of African rainforests. While the leggy sweeties are often confused with zebras, the okapi’s closest relative is the giraffe.

Animal lovers can now meet the calf and her family at the Los Angeles Zoo — just follow the stripes.