Tuesday, May 1, 2007

LIVING FOSSIL OKAPI

The okapi is the only known living relative of the giraffe and lives in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and western Uganda. It prefers to live a solitary and secluded life, away from human observation, and for this reason it was not discovered until 1900. It has a long, prehensile, purplish tongue, which it uses to grab leaves from bushes and trees, and even to groom its ears! The male has two small, skin-covered bony knobs on its forehead. The okapi finds the minerals its body needs by eating sulfurous clay found along river banks. The okapi is considered a "living fossil", because it's the only animal similar to the prehistoric giraffes.

Still rare and threatened, the okapi lives only in the tall primary forests of eastern DRC, mainly in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, centered around the
village of Epulu. It is reported that the okapi was originally discovered further east in the forests along the Semliki Valley, Virunga National Park which today is a UN World Heritage site protected by international and national laws.

In the 1890s, the explorer Henry Morton Stanley described the Okapi as a kind of forest donkey. Others had thought it might be an antelope. When the explorer Sir Harry Johnston sent a piece of striped okapi skin to the British Museum, London scientists announced the discovery of a new species of forest zebra.When a complete okapi was finally found 1901, biologists were astonished to find that its closest living relative was the giraffe.

The lowland sector of Virunga National Park has been the hideout for different rebel groups over the past 20 years and as a result has prevented ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) from patrolling the areas. The difficult terrain has also prevented logging and farming there, which, according to WWF, explains why the rare species has survived unnoticed.

Okapi have graced everything from bank notes, books to postal stamps

More Information
Gilman International Conservation

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Habari Liz,

This Okapi is like a mixture of a zebra and a donkey if that is possible at all. I never heard about Okapi before.

I just hope that stability will be restored in the D.R.C soon so that their beautiful tourist attractions might earn them foreign exchange!

Bravo Liz!

Tanzanianboy!

AFRICAN LIZ said...

Hello Tanzania Boy

The zebra-donkey mix is an interesting observation. I cant help but wonder if the rebel camps are hunting this animals for food? Maybe I am being paranoid.

Liz

Anonymous said...

Okapi is a mixture between a giraffe, a zebra and a goat or donkey. Strange ,huh? I never heard of Okapi before until a Biology class at school. Hey , what do u think is stranger: an Okapi or a Liger(female tiger+male lion)
Post ur comment!!

AFRICAN LIZ said...

Both animals are unique in their own ways. A liger is a hybrid between male lion and female tiger where as the Okapi is a member of the giraffe family and not a hybrid. Though some may be against the idea of mixing two species, it is easy to 'manufacture' a liger. To the best of my knowledge you cannot 'manufacture' an Okapi by mixing two species.

Anonymous said...

I saw an okapi in the Berlinian Zoo...it's really interesting animal and deserve to be safed and kept!

Book 7 Refresh said...

Hello, I am an Okapi. I was adopted by humans who taught me how to type.

Warm regards to all human readers,

Steve (The Okapi)

saeeeeeeeeed@yahoo.co.uk

Shawna said...

The Okapi IS NOT a cross between a zebra and a donkey! The hybrid that results from crossing a zebra and a donkey is a Zonkey and it looks NOTHING like an Okapi! An Okapi CANNOT be created by breeding two different species together. It is actually the closest living relative to the giraffe. Go back to Biology 101!!

Kathy said...

I think this animal looks like a combination of a moose or elk, with it's shape and size, and a zebra, for the stripes. Never knew it was so big until I saw this picture next to a man. I understand it has a long tongue like a Giraffe but I think that is it's only thing that makes it similar. It does have a strange shaped head and snout.

Brown Charlie said...

i get what your saying, the tongue and the shape are pretty much the only things that they share looks-wise with Giraffes but biologically they are very closely related

Anonymous said...

i think that the okapi is a cross between a giraffe , zebra and a deer. I know that you say it is a donkey but everybody i know says it is a giraffe, zebra and a deer.

Anonymous said...

i think it's a cross between an orangutang, kangaroo, ape, porkupine and impala...how else do you think they came up with a name like okapi?!?!?!?!? duh!!!!

Anonymous said...

The okapi is not a cross between any animal and any other animal! Just because it doesn't look much like a giraffe doesn't mean they aren't related! Even though phenotypic expression is different between the two species, their DNA is still very similar. The zebra-looking stripes simply mean they evolved with defense mechanisms similar to zebras. Through the eyes of predators with weak color distinction, both blend in well with backgrounds of lighter and darker regions. The similar stripe colors do not indicate similar lineage! Grizzly bears and elk are both brown, but I'm pretty dang sure they aren't related!

Rafaela'24 said...

I did not know that this animal existed, who gave me to know this wonderful animal was my uncle. When he showed a photograph was very curious and since then I began to do more research about this animal.
I think this animal is a kind of mixture: it has the deer head, neck and tongue of giraffe, horse body and legs of zebra.
I pity is that this animal has been decreasing in size, since it now does not pass the 2 meter and this photo estámuito higher.

Anonymous said...

Did okapi, possibly once have long antlers similar to a gazelle? Or...is there a similar-looking (head) animal in Africa, brown in colour, very long neck and very long elegent antlers? ...which I could look at to help identify ...an antique taxidermied head of a "Rodesian"? mamal which I have viewed here in Canada. It is said to be an Okapi, is beautiful, all brown, quiet large, and a long neck...but has very long elegant antlers ???
Thank You so much,
Gina

Smoore said...

My goal someday is to crossbreed a male okapi with a female giraffe (vice versa could be dangerous to the female since a male giraffe is much larger than a female okapi). Since they share recent common ancestry (probably around 4000 years ago), they should be able to at least produce sterile offspring like a mule.

It is impossible, though, that they are related to deer, antelope, or zebra. Zebras are a variety of horse. Antelope are a variety of cattle (as are bison/buffalo, sheep, and goats). Deer include the elk, moose, caribou, and muntjac. These are three separate kinds of animals that cannot cross outside of their separate kinds. This is commonly seen in nature, where hybrids are born within kinds but never across those barriers.

 
Afrigator