Range Central Africa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Giraffidae
Genus Okapia
Species Okapia johnstoni
Conservation Status

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), also known as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe, or zebra giraffe, is a species from the Okapia genus. It can be found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. It is pronounced "oh-cop-ee".


The okapi may bear some resemblance to a Zebra, but is actually related to Giraffes. Okapis have velvet backs with horizontal white stripes on the front and back legs and on portions of their posterior. These stripe's purpose could be for camouflage in the dense forest. Because of their wet environment, they have oily fur that repels water. Their body shape is practically the same as a Giraffe's but, of course they have much shorter necks, but still long compared to a Zebra. At the end of their necks, is a horse-like white head. They also have long legs and a bold body like their relatives. Okapi's also have 35 cm long, prehensile, purple tongues like their counterparts. Their tongues are long enough for them to clean their eyelids and ears. Male okapis also have ossicones like giraffes. Their ears are very large so they can detect their predators. Okapis are usually 6.2 to 8.2 ft long including their tail. Their tail measures 30 to 42 cm in length. Okapis stand at a 4.9 to 6.6 ft high, still much smaller than the giraffes. They weigh 440 to 770 lbs. They are a mix between a zebra and a giraffe.


Okapis were said to be diurnal, but recent photographs depict them at night. One photo was taken at 2:00 in the morning feasting on leaves, which may prove that they feed at night. They are solitary only coming together to mate. Mating behaviors include licking one another, circling each other, and sniffing one another. Their gestation period is typically 14-15 months. When the time comes, they birth 1 young usually. Strangely, the newborn will suckle several other females. Either way, the mother defends it's calf to the death. Okapis will warn the predator by stamping their front legs vigorously against the ground.

Okapis like to dwell in secluded, large, unpopulated areas, which sadly, has made their risk of survival less possible as human population expands. An okapi's territory may be several square kilometers large. They mark their territory by urinating, or by releasing a tar-like substance from the scent glands on their feet. Okapis have various sounds including whistles, coughs, and bleats, somewhat similar to a Zebra's.


Okapis are herbivores, using their tongues to reach high up to leaves and other foliage. Their normal diet is fruits, grasses, fungi, buds, ferns, and many plants that are poisonous to humans, but not to okapis. Some strange things that it has been known to eat are charcoal from burnt trees, and even sulfurous reddish clay found by rivers and streams. No one still knows why they eat those.


An okapi's lifespan is typically over 30 years long.


The main predators of the okapi is the leopard, and people. People illegally poach these creatures.


Okapi's dwell straight in the heart of Africa in the dense rainforests. They are native to the Ituri rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are most commonly found in the Wamba and Epulu areas. They prefer altitudes at 500 to 1,000 m in the montane rainforests. They have also been known to live in swamps, savannas, and woodlands.


Okapi in ancient Egypt.

The okapi was depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as a strange horse-like animal. This also suggests this animal had a much greater range.

For decades, Europeans visiting Africa heard stories of a creature called by the locals, "atti". The Europeans donned it the African unicorn. Explorers saw only the striped backsides fleeing from their presence, leading them to believe it was a rainforest-dwelling Zebra.

The British governor of Uganda, Sir Harry Johnston, discovered some pygmies of the Congo were being abducted by a showman for exhibition. He succeeded at rescuing them and bringing them back to their homes. As a reward, the pygmies fed him with knowledge of the atti and even showed him some puzzling tracks of the horse-like Cryptid.  Johnston did not see a living okapi but did obtain the striped hide, and a skull of the creature. He brought the skull elsewhere to be examined. In 1901, it was classified as a new species, a relative of the giraffe, Okapia Johnstoni.


As of 2011, 155 okapis were exhibited in zoos on 4 different continents. Most of them in America, 60 in Europe, 7 in Japan, and 2 in South Africa. Immediately after this creature's discovery, it was tried to be established in zoos worldwide. The first specimen was officially exhibited in 1918 in Antwerp, Europe. The second specimen arrived in the Bronx zoo in 1937. The first okapi born in captivity occurred in 1953 in Antwerp, the second occurred in 1959 at the Brookfield zoo. The following is a list of all the births since the discovery at zoos worldwide, taken from Wikipedia.

Zoos Number of births
White Oak Conservation 51
Antwerp Zoo 47
Diergaade Blijdorp 43
International Rhino Foundation 39
San Diego Zoo Safari Park 38
Bristol Zoo 37
Dallas Zoo 34
Lincoln Park Zoo 30
Brookfield Zoo 27
Zoo Basel 26
San Diego Zoo 23
Wilhelma Stuttgart 12
Zoo Berlin 4
Zoo Miami 2
Chester Zoo 1
Lowry Park Zoo



Okapis are classified as an Endangered species since 2013. Their main victims are habitat loss and poaching. The Congo civil war also had it's toll on this mammal. The estimated population worldwide is between 10,000-35,000. Conservation work was started in the Congo since 1992 to examine the behavior of this unique creature. An important breeding center at the heart of Epulu has helped bring the population back. Since 1959, no okapi has been seen in the Virunga National Park. In June of 2006, scientists reported evidence of okapis still living there to this date. In 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported that one of their cameras snapped the first photo ever taken of a wild okapi.




Okapi, Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Congo


Newborn Baby Okapi - Cincinnati Zoo



Male okapi at the zoo


Okapi Calf at the Bronx Zoo-0


  • Females are taller than the males
  • The okapi is a forest-dwelling relative of the giraffe
  • The okapi's fur has a delicate smell
  • Before it's discovery, pygmies thought the okapi was a species of horse or donkey
  • Okapis rub their necks on tree trunks
  • Their territory ranges do overlap
  • Mothers use infrasonic communication to talk to their calves
  • Their hearing is below the range of human hearing
  • It is believed to be extinct in Uganda
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