Hidden in the shadows of Africa’s dense Ituri Forest lives a shy relative of the giraffe called the okapi (Okapia

Kuvua at the Cincinnati Zoo

. Like the giraffe, the okapi uses its long, prehensile tongue to pluck leaves and buds from trees. The foot-long tongue also allows the okapi to lick and clean its own eyelids and ears. An okapi also walks like a giraffe, swinging forward both legs on the same side of the body together. Okapis are solitary, only coming together to mate.

The zebra-like stripes on the back of the okapi’s legs are thought to serve as a “follow me” signal for calves.Okapis defend their young from predators, such as the leopard, by kicking with their feet.The okapi was only officially discovered in 1900.


  • Pronunciation: oh-KOP-ee
  • Where to see them: Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
  • Height: 5 to 6.5 ft
  • Weight: 460 to 550 lbs
  • Lifespan: 33 yrs in captivity
  • Habitat: Rainforest
  • Diet: Leaves and shoots
  • Risk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN —Lower risk/near threatened)
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