Marwell Zoo is celebrating the arrival of an endangered Okapi calf born at the zoo – and it’s a girl!
The female calf has been named Niari, which means ‘rare’ in an African language. It is also the name of a region within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Okapis are found.
First-time mother Daphne and Niari are both doing well and bonding behind the scenes.
Animal keeper Phil Robbins said, “We know guests are desperate to see the pair, but we want to make sure Daphne and Niari enjoy some peace and quiet, as this is essential in the first few weeks of the nesting period.”
“Okapis are very shy animals. As such, we prefer to keep Okapi dams and calves in an isolated environment to reduce noise and stress levels,” he added.
Okapis give birth to a single calf after a 14-month gestation period. An Okapi calf can be on its feet and suckling within half an hour of being born. In the wild, the mother will leave her calf in a hiding place to nest, returning regularly to allow the calf to nurse.
Only when they are 30-40 days old do Okapi calves defecate for the first time. This unique adaptation may keep predators from sniffing out the hidden newborn until the calf has grown and gained strength.
Okapis are relatives of Giraffes and are found only in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Okapis as Endangered due to illegal mining, logging, and human settlement, which degrades their forest habitat. Okapis are also hunted for bushmeat by local people. Armed conflicts in the region have inhibited conservation actions.
See more photos of the Okapi calf below.