An okapi calf was born in Rotterdam Zoo on the 13th May 2017. It is a male. The keepers called him Gerrit in memory of Gerrit van de Graaf the first okapi keeper in the Netherlands. In 1957, Rotterdam Zoo received a pair of okapis as a gift from Antwerp Zoo and they were cared for by Gerrit. After his pension Gerrit still visited Rotterdam Zoo on a regular basis. He was also looking forward to this recent okapi birth. On the day of the birth Gerrit passed away at the age of 90 years.
This calf is Kamina’s sixth calf but it is also the first okapi to be born in our Congo enclosure which was opened at the end of March 2015. The enclosure was a gift from the Friends of the Zoo. The birth could be watched live thanks to the webcams. At the critical moment, Kamina turned around and gave birth in full view of the camera. Shortly afterwards the calf was seen making frantic efforts to stand, these eventually succeeded and within an hour the calf was stable on its feet and walking around the enclosure. The many tropical birds that share the enclosure with the okapis seemed to make nursery visits; there was much coming and going of noisy fluttering birds.
Pregnancy in okapis lasts 15 months. Mother, Kamina, was also born in Rotterdam Zoo. Okapis remain uncommon in zoos. Rotterdam has had a long history with the species, the first ones arrived in 1957. At that time little was known about this mysterious animal that was only discovered by Europeans in the previous century.
From the start, Rotterdam was successful in breeding okapis and it is extra special that during the zoo’s 160 year jubilee another okapi was born. The endangered okapi belongs to the giraffe family and is sometimes called the Forest giraffe. This shy species is only found in the impenetrable rain forest of the Congo where it is threatened by poaching and deforestation. They have a beautiful soft brown coat with a unique white stripe pattern on their rump. Rotterdam Zoo helps wild okapis be supporting the work of the Okapi Conservation Project in the Congo.
Film: birth and the first steps
First steps in the outside enclosure