10 Okapi Facts for Kids
1. The Okapi is a relatively unknown animal that lives in the Congo. It is called the forest giraffe or the zebra giraffe is an unusual looking animal. It looks like an animal that was pieced together using other animals.
2. It has zebra like legs with a reddish body and a giraffe like body. When they were first “discovered” by a European explorer it was thought that someone had made them up. They are similar to the giraffe except they have a much shorter neck. Like the giraffe the Okapi has a long bluish tongue that is long enough to reach its ears and clean them both outside and inside.
3. They are large animals and range in length from 6-8 feet. They stand at the shoulder from 5-6 feet tall. They can range in weight from 450- 770 pounds.
4. These odd looking mammals live in the rainforest of the Congo. They are both nocturnal and diurnal which means they can be active during both the day and the night. They like to live alone and only come together to breed.
5. They have velvety coats that are rich with oils to help them repel the rain.
6. Okapi are herbivores and have been known to eat plants that are toxic to humans. Investigation of their scat has shown that they consume the charcoal from trees that have been burnt by lightening. They also consume large amounts of clay that they get from river beds.
7. It is thought that the charcoal helps to neutralize the toxins that they consume in their diet while the clay helps them to get the minerals that they need in their diet. They use their long tongues to reach a full range of leaves. Their sticky tongues can easily strip the leaves off of trees.
8. This unusual animal has been on the endangered species list since 2013. It is estimated that their population numbers less than 10,000 in the wild. The biggest threat to these animals is man. The deforestation of their habitat and poaching practices has depleted the population.
9. Conservation efforts include education and stricter laws about hunting and exporting the skin of these animals.
Okapi’s In Captivity
10. Okapis in zoos display an unusual trait. Wild Okapis have 46 chromosomes in their genetic makeup. Captive Okapis in zoos have only 45. They still breed and their young seem to be fine. The condition is called monosomy or Roberstonian fusion. It is an unexplainable occurrence that seemingly only affects them in captivity.