Do you know the closest living relative of giraffes? Although the okapi is not that tall and the markings on its fur are different, it has a lot in common with these long-necked animals. This animal that lives in Africa can be seen in some zoos, but currently, unfortunately, it is a highly threatened species and is on the way to extinction. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the okapi has been threatened since 2013 . There are only between 10,000 and 20,000 in the world. As a fun fact, long ago, it was known as the Unicorn of Africa .
Information sheet on okapi and its characteristics
Below, we present a simple information sheet so that it is easy to know well the characteristics of the okapi, an animal that is going towards extinction according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , which already considers it seriously threatened.
- Common name: okapi
- Scientific name: Okapia johnstoni
- Class: Mammalia
- Orden: Artiodactyla
- Familia: Giraffidae
- Habitat: dense rainforests in Africa.
- Physical characteristics: smaller than giraffes, with a brown body and white legs with black and brown stripes and it has two small horns. It can be said that its appearance is reminiscent of a mix between horse, zebra and giraffe.
- Diet: herbivores.
African okapis or unicorns are similar to a zebra and a giraffe. Its body is more like that of a giraffe but with much shorter legs and neck. They measure around 2.15 meters in height , counting on their neck and head, since at the cross, their height exceeds one meter. These animals can weigh up to 250 kg , much less than giraffes.
It also has two large ears, in proportion to its head, as well as two small horns with fur, like giraffes. Its fur is brown, somewhat reddish, except on its face, which is whiter, and on its legs, where the hair is white and with black and brown stripes . Hence, it also reminds us of a zebra.
The tongue of the okapi is long , dark and even bluish, like that of giraffes, since their diet is very similar. To get an idea of how long their tongue can be, these animals can reach for their ears with their tongue. In addition, they have highly developed senses of smell and hearing.
The young are born after a gestation of 15 months and only one is born per pregnancy.
They are rather nocturnal and solitary animals, although in the wild they can also be seen in small groups. The only predators of this species in its natural habitat are humans and leopards.
A curious fact about their behavior, which is generally very calm, is that they practically do not use their voice, which makes them seem mute. The young are usually only heard when looking for the mothers and adults in the mating season.
The habitat of these animal relatives of giraffes is found, specifically, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa . We say, specifically, because in a state of freedom they do not live anywhere else in the world. Although, of course, they can be seen in captivity in many other places on the planet, that is, in zoos in many cities.
In the wild , the okapis live in the dense jungles of the north of this African country, in an area of about 244,405 square km, and not in the savannah like their relatives the giraffes. This is one of the reasons why evolution has not made them as high as these, since they need to move in the jungle.
A relevant fact is that, formerly, it also lived in Uganda, but there it has already become extinct.
What does okapi eat ? Well, it is a herbivorous mammal , so it feeds on vegetation. Specifically, they feed on the leaves, shoots and stems of the trees and shrubs of the jungles in which they live and that remain at their height, although, as giraffes do, they can pick up branches and pull them down in order to be able to reach the most tender leaves better.
However, they not only eat the foliage of trees and shrubs, although it is their main food. They also eat plants found in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, believed to feed on more than 100 different species of plants, as well as some herbs, fruits and even mushrooms .
Currently, the okapi is a threatened or endangered species , which is the previous step to the situation of danger of extinction. However, the IUCN, which has cataloged it, warns that the evolution of its population is decreasing and, therefore, in a very few years it could become in danger of extinction, if something is not done about it, and reach be extinct in a few decades.
Among the main causes of the okapi threat situation we find the following:
- Situation of armed conflict
In this country, as in other parts of the world, deforestation is accelerating by the hand of man to obtain habitable land, as well as to carry out massive and unsustainable and ecological plantations. In addition, mining also affects the land a lot, especially that which is carried out illegally, as well as poaching, which not only affects these animals in this area, since their skin and meat are highly valued in the black market. Finally, this country is currently still in conflict situations with weapons, due to political and social issues.
Possible solutions to the threat status of the okapi
Among the possible solutions that can be carried out to remedy this situation of this species, and of many others, we find the following:
- Increased vigilance in the nature reserves of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and harshly penalize poaching.
- Improve the standard of living of the human population of this country, helping to avoid constant armed conflicts. With this measure, poaching carried out by those who need a livelihood to survive in this country can also be reduced , as they could thus find jobs that would allow them to abandon this illegal activity.
- In the same way, control illegal mining , not only with vigilance but also by improving the quality of life of the inhabitants.
- Reduce deforestation in the area.