On 15 September a healthy male Okapi calf was born at Antwerp Zoo. Worldwide only 48 Okapi have been born in captivity, seven of them at Antwerp Zoo. This calf is named Nkosi, which means God in the Xhosa language, one of the official languages of South Africa.
Footage of the newborn Okapi calf:
This newborn Okapi delivered some good news, finally, about Okapi conservation after the brutal attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve headquarters – the Epulu Breeding and Research Station – in the Congo Basin in June this year. A group of armed bandits or poachers attacked and killed the entire breeding herd of 15 Okapi and at least seven staff members. Epulu plays a pivotal role in the future survival of the Okapi and is central in managing stock for global conservation breeding programmes of the species.
The Antwerp Zoo oversees the International Studbook for Okapi and coordinates the breeding programme for Okapi in European zoos – the European Endangered Species Programme — in an effort to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population. Zoo breeding programmes are more important than ever since only around 35,000 Okapi can be found in the wild still. Okapi are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the aforementioned raid on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve by poachers took place.
Other threats to the Okapi’s uncertain future are habitat destruction and fragmentation by clearing of rain forest for agriculture and tropical hardwoods, mining, and the political and socio-economic unrest in the region.
Okapi are related to giraffes, with their long tongues and long necks to prove it. The bold stripes are unique to each Okapi, much like a person’s fingerprints. These stripes provide ideal camouflage in their native jungle habitat.