We are celebrating the birth of one of the rarest species in captivity following the arrival of an okapi calf.
Ruby, as she’s been named by her keepers, is just seven days old and was born after a gestation period of over 14 months.
Her arrival into the world, which took around two hours from initial labour signs, was captured on a camera by her keepers.
An expert team of vets and animal keepers were on hand to help deliver Ruby who was positioned backwards with her legs protruding. One of her legs had become stuck at the joint, prohibiting Kibibi from being able to deliver naturally, so vets intervened to help release it.
She weighed around 14kg at birth and like her parents; Ruby has a brown and white striped rump with a deep reddish brown velvety coat on her body.
The birth was the result of a successful introduction between female okapi; Kibibi aged 8, and male Rubani, aged 21.
“This is Kibibi’s second calf, but thankfully this one has a much more positive story,” explained Nigel Simpson, head of operations at Wild Place Project. “Kibibi’s first baby was premature in 2014 and unfortunately the baby was too underdeveloped to survive.
“With this in mind it is great to see that Kibibi has taken to mothering Ruby so brilliantly. After the vets assisted with moving one of Ruby’s legs she was delivered within around two minutes. She was then placed into a stable and Kibibi was immediately given access and started licking her little newborn.”
Nigel added: “Ruby was very active and stood up after an hour and first suckled about 45 minutes after that. She will suckle until six months old and will then be weaned onto pellet, spring greens and sugar beet.”
There are just 14 okapi in the UK, including Ruby, so her birth is a huge boost to the breeding programme.
In the 1960s we were a founding member of the first ever modern breeding programme in a European Zoo. We received a male and a female from Antwerp Zoo, in Belgium, who went on to successfully breed at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
The success of the breeding programme was applied to other species by zoos across Europe and was used as an example to help safeguard the future of threatened and endangered animals in human care.
Okapi were moved from Bristol Zoo Gardens to Wild Place Project when it opened in 2013 and a total of 40 calves have been born at both sites.
Nigel said: “The active role that we have taken in the international breeding and conservation programme to increase okapi numbers and raise awareness of the threats is an important demonstration of the role of modern wildlife parks and zoos in active conservation.”
Okapi are the only living relative of the giraffe. The species was first encountered by Europeans in 1900 and described by scientists in 1901. They are native only to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa where they are threatened by expansion of human settlement and forest degradation. A major current threat is also the presence of illegal armed groups in and around the key protected areas for the species.
Visitors to Wild Place Project may catch a glimpse of baby Ruby venturing outside of her stable with Kibibi over the forthcoming weeks however, she is currently spending much of her time inside her stable.