Okapis, a rare species of forest giraffe, are back once more in Rotterdam Zoo where they can be found in a spanking new enclosure resembling the central African jungle. They share their new space with various species of birds and plants that are native to their natural habitat. Our former migratory bird exhibit together with the three adjacent greenhouses have been transformed into a Congo habitat with spacious indoor and outdoor areas. This exhibit was a gift from the Vereniging Vrienden van Blijdorp and was opened to the public for the first time on 29th March. As icing on the cake, two real giraffes we born in an adjacent enclosure!!
Rotterdam Zoo has a historic link with okapis. The first okapis arrived here in 1957; part of the first group of okapis to arrive in Europe. For fifty five years this species was part of our collection but, sadly, they had to move out a couple of years ago to make space to construct our new lion area. However now they are back with us again. Over the years many okapis have been born in Rotterdam zoo and these have been sent out to other zoos around Europe. With this background and a state of the art new exhibit, we hope to be able to continue to contribute the okapi breeding programme in the future.
One of the okapis you will meet in the new area is an old friend, the female Kamina who was born here but left for the French Zoo, Beauval in 2012. She is now back with her daughter M’buti who was born while she was in Beauval. They have been joined by Ngwani a young male and a second breeding male, Rab, is expected later in the year to complete this quartet.
Recycled material has been extensively used in the construction of the new enclosure; for example the visitors’ footpath is made from shredded tractor tyres. The old grenhouses have been connected together so that the okapis will be able to have a large winter enclosure rather than having to stay in their stalls in the cold weather and many of the materials from the old okapi stalls, wooden poles and beams, have been re-used in this new area.
Wild living okapis have not been forgotten, the Vrienden van Blijdorp are also supporting the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in the Congo. So our Friends are not only providing us with a beautiful new exhibit but are also giving support to an endangered species in the wild.