A young Okapi called Ruby has celebrated her first birthday at Wild Place Project by tucking in to her favourite treat –red roses.
Keeper Anna Head, who has looked after Ruby since she was born, gave her the roses to mark the occasion.
Okapi are very rare in captivity so her birth on May 19th last year was a significant boost for the breeding programme for the species.
She was born to mother Kibibi after a gestation period of over 14 months and was named Ruby after her father male Rubani who died five months before her birth.
Ruby had a dramatic start in life as a team of vets and keepers had to help deliver her – all of which was captured on CCTV camera. She was born backwards with her legs protruding and one of her legs became stuck, preventing Kibibi from being able to deliver naturally.
Now weighing 140kg (308 lbs), Ruby is ten times her birth weight and is growing fast but it will be another two years before she is fully grown.
Wild Place animal manager, Will Walker, said: “It has been great to watch Ruby grow up and flourish. She is now totally independent and weaned from her mother, but she still lives with her as she would in the wild. Eventually Ruby will move to another animal collection to continue the breeding programme for this very important species.”
Ruby is one of five okapi at Wild Place, living alongside her mother Kibibi, another adult female called Lodja and her six-month-old calf Kimosi and adult male, Kivu
Okapi are categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red list of threatened species with just 15 okapi in captivity the UK.
In the 1960s Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and runs Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens, was a founder member of the first ever okapi breeding programme in a European Zoo.
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 41calves have been born at both sites over the years.
Will added: “We have always taken a very active role in the European Endangered Species Program to increase okapi numbers and raise awareness of the threats they face in the wild. Our continued success at breeding this species further demonstrates the role of modern zoos and wildlife parks in animal 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.