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Okapi are part of the Giraffidae family. It is an artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. They have heads like giraffes, although their necks are shorter. Their bodies resemble horses and their markings are similar to zebras but they are actually most closely related to giraffes.
See the fact file below for more information on the Okapi or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Okapi worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Common Name: Okapi
- Scientific Name: Okapia johnstoni
- Class: Mammalia
- Family: Giraffidae
- Average Height at Shoulder: 1.5 to 1.7 meters
- Diet: Herbivores
- Habitat: African rainforests
- Average Lifespan in captivity: 30 years
- The okapi (Okapia Johnstoni) is also known as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe or zebra giraffe.
- Henry Morton Stanley mentioned in his travelogue when he explored the Congo that there was a kind of donkey that the natives called the atti, which scholars later identified as the okapi.
- In 1901, the species was formally recognized as Okapia Johnstoni, which was first described as Equus Johnstoni by English zoologist Philip Lutley Sclater.
- The name Okapia derives from the Lese Karo name o’api, while the specific name (johnstoni) is in recognition of the British Governor of Uganda, Sir Harry Johnston, who first acquired an okapi specimen for science from the Ituri Forest while repatriating a group of Pygmies to the Belgian Congo.
- In 1986, Okapia was finally established as a sister genus of Giraffa on the basis of cladistic analysis. The two genera, together with Palaeotragus, constitute the tribe Giraffini.
- A 2016 study found that the common ancestor of giraffe and okapi lived about 11.5 million years ago.
- The face, throat and chest of the okapi are greyish white.
- Okapi are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. Females are typically a little heavier at 495 to 770 lbs (225 to 350 kilograms) while males weigh 440 to 660 lbs (200 to 300 kg).
- The ears of an okapi can rotate independently, so the animal can listen for sounds both in front and behind.
- Okapi stripes are sometimes called “follow me” stripes, as the bold pattern makes it easy for a calf to follow its mother through the dark rainforest.
- Only male okapi bear horns.
- The okapi’s dark tongue is long enough to reach its eyes and ears.
Behavioral Traits and Adaptation
- The okapi shows several adaptations to its tropical habitat. The large number of rod cells in the retina facilitate night vision, and they have a well-developed sense of smell.
- Also, the large auditory bullae allow a strong sense of hearing.
- Teeth are low-crowned and finely cusped and efficiently cut tender foliage.
- Okapi are known to have a large caecum and colon to help in microbial digestion, and a quick rate of food passage allows for lower cell wall digestion than in other ruminants.
- Okapi are solitary animals although mothers will often roam with their offspring.
- Because of their great sense of smell, okapi can tell if another okapi has been there by sniffing the ground.
- Males also mark their territory by spraying urine. Normally silent, female okapis vocalize only when they are ready to breed.
- Okapi are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruit, and fungi, where they use their 18 inch tongues to selectively browse for suitable plants.
- Okapi are known to eat clay and burnt charcoal, probably for minerals. And just like giraffes, sheep and goats, okapi are ruminants.
- Okapi in captivity are fed alfalfa hay and pellets, leafy acacia branches, carrots and yams.
- The okapi’s habitat is in the tropical rainforest in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
- The population density of the okapi averages 0.53 animals per square kilometer in mixed Cynometra forests.
- Smaller populations exist west and south of the DRC. They are also common in the Wamba and Epulu areas. The okapi is extinct in Uganda.
Okapis Secret Communication
- San Diego Zoo researchers discovered that okapi have a secret language.
- The researchers hear coughs, bleats and whistles quite often. In addition, they also use other calls with very low frequencies.
- These calls are so low, in fact, that humans cannot hear them at all, it only becomes audible using infrasonic technology.
- Okapi mothers call their babies using low-pitched calls. In this situation, mom can “check in” with her offspring without alerting potential predators. Predators remain unaware as they cannot hear low-pitched sounds.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
- According to Animal Planet, okapi mate all year long, with mating especially common in May and June and again in November and December.
- Male and female okapi are old enough to breed by the time they reach two years old.
- The male and the female begin courtship by circling, smelling and licking each other. The male shows his dominance by extending his neck, tossing his head and protruding one leg forward. This is followed by mounting and copulation.
- Females usually give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of about 450 days.
- The average calf weighs anywhere from 30 to 65 pounds at birth. The calf can stand as little as 30 minutes after birth and will then start nursing.
- Young okapi usually spend their first two days after birth following their mothers around, but then spend the next few months hiding in a nest.
- Once mating is complete, male and female okapi generally go their separate ways.
Threats and Conservation
- Major threats to okapi include habitat loss due to logging and human settlement.
- Hunting for meat and skin are also diminishing the population rapidly. In June 2012, a gang of poachers attacked the headquarters of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, they killed all 14 okapi at their breeding center.
- The okapi was officially classified ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is because the rate of population decline is estimated to have exceeded 50 percent over the past 24 years.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Okapi across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Okapi worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Okapi which are part of the Giraffidae family. It is an artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. They have heads like giraffes, although their necks are shorter. Their bodies resemble horses and their markings are similar to zebras but they are actually most closely related to giraffes.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Okapi Facts
- Okapi Cards
- Physical Attraction
- Word Connect
- Okapi World
- Taxonomy of Okapi
- Okapi Islander
- Fact or Bluff
- Get Word
- Stripes and Spots
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Link will appear as Okapi Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 26, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.