18 / 10 / 2017
Today we celebrate world okapi day!
Today is World Okapi Day, an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness about these amazing and elusive animals.
Okapi are the only living relative to giraffe, but unlike their long-legged cousins, okapi are extremely secretive and almost impossible to see in the wild.
Fortunately we have five okapi living at Wild Place Project so you can admire these creatures first-hand, up-close.
Kibibi, Kivu, Lodja, Kimosi and Ruby all live in the Secret Congo exhibit. Lodja is the oldest of the group, at 16, and Kimosi is the youngest - due to celebrate her first birthday next month.
Commonly mistaken as a hybrid between two or three animals, the okapi is its very own distinct species living in the dense rainforests of central Africa.
However these animals are under serious threat and have been classified as Endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. Okapi are entirely dependent on the forests for their survival, but deforestation, along with poaching and mining, has contributed to its decline in recent decades.
The Okapi has short, dense, velvety fur and striped bottoms with a long neck and a long, black tongue, similar to its closest relative, the giraffe. Their tongues are about 35cm long, enabling the okapi to feed on tree leaves. It also means they can lick their own eyelids as part of its grooming routine!
The male also has skin-covered horns like a giraffe, however unlike a giraffe, the neck is much shorter. Okapis stand about 170 cm tall and while the male weighs about 230 kg the female can weigh over 300kg.
Remaining unknown to the western world until 1901, the okapi is a cultural symbol in the Congo. Many people have not heard of okapi, which is World Okapi Day was created to help raise awareness of this beautiful species.
Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens, has a long history of caring for okapi. In the 1960s Bristol Zoo 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 41 calves have been born at both sites over the years.
You can get up-close to the okapi and red river hogs at Wild Place in a unique animal experience: www.wildplace.org.uk/plan-your-visit/animal-experiences/okapi-and-red-river-hog-experience  
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