Update 29 december 2021
Normally young okapis stay in a safe place in the stable for a long time after they are born. Okapi Mayala was soon walking around and following her mother M’buti very well. That is why the keepers decided to introduce her to the indoor garden. Curious, she walked around and started exploring.
22 November 2021
Okapi M’buti gave birth to a baby on Sunday 21 November at 12:15. Mother and cub are doing well. M’buti is an experienced mother, this is her third litter. Father is Ngwani. The little one will stay in the stable for the coming weeks. Okapis are ‘nest dwellers’. Just like in the wild, the mother leaves her young behind in a safe place and only returns to suckle them. The okapi young spend their first days sleeping and drinking. In the near future, visitors will be able to take a look inside the maternity ward via webcams.
Okapis are related to giraffes and are also known as forest giraffes. They are found only in Congo’s impenetrable jungle where they are threatened by poaching, logging and political instability. The animals are also somewhat mysterious: they are the last discovered large mammals. They were only discovered by chance in the Congo rainforest around 1900. The English government official Harry H. Johnston got hold of a piece of velvet skin with stripes. He got it via the pygmies who already knew the animal and hunted it. Johnston first thought he was dealing with a zebra, but six months later scientists discovered that it really was a completely new species.
Blijdorp has a long history with okapi’s. In 1957 Blijdorp welcomed its first two okapi’s and in 1960 the first young was born. After Paris, Antwerp, Chicago and New York, Blijdorp was the fifth zoo in the world to give birth to a healthy okapi, who grew up almost without any problems. Yet this did not happen automatically, because okapis are not easy to take care of. They are specialised leaf eaters and are very sensitive for intestinal parasites. Afterwards, too, young were born regularly and by now Rotterdam blood is well represented in the current okapi population in Europe and America.
In 2015, the okapis were given a new, spacious indoor and outdoor enclosure thanks to the Friends of Blijdorp. It is now inhabited by three adult females, a male and the newborn. The okapis live here together with several bird species. The enclosure is decorated with plants from their natural habitat.