Wildlife Wednesday: Okapi

by alive Editorial

Wildlife Wednesday: Okapi

It’s an … ante-zeb-ama …? This Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about the peculiar-looking okapi.

While this strange-looking herbivore may look like the result of an antelope’s wild and crazy night with a zebra and a llama, the okapi is actually a descendant of its much taller and much more recognized cousin, the giraffe.

For Wildlife Wednesday, we’re going to learn about this odd creature and why the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified the species as “Endangered.”


Okapis (pronounced oh-cop-pees) are found in the dense rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s north-eastern regions.


  • Okapis, like giraffes, have to splay their front legs in order to drink.
  • While they may not look all that much like their giraffe cousins, they have the same type of flexible, prehensile tongue. This tongue comes in handy for stripping buds and leaves off of plants.
  • Though calves are able to stand about 30 minutes after birth, their mothers hide them away in a “nest” while she forages for the first few weeks of their life.
  • Okapis were thought to communicate solely by using a series of coughs, whistles, and bleats. In 2008, however, researchers discovered they also make subvocalizations at frequencies that human ears—and predator ears—can’t hear. Researchers believe that mothers use these noises to communicate with their young.

Why they’re threatened

Okapis, previously classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, had their rank drop two tiers to “Endangered” in November 2013. Their new classification and their lowering population numbers are caused by a number of different issues.

Okapi habitats are facing deforestation—for timber, increased agricultural land, and the development of gold and coltan mines, among other things. Okapis, meanwhile, are threatened by poachers, as their meat is sold in the bushmeat market and their unique pelts are valuable.

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