©Steve J O’Brien
When I came across the Okapi in an animal book in 3rd grade, I remember being blown away. How could there be an animal this amazing that I’d never even heard of? Unthinkable!
The okapi is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the Ituri Rainforest, located in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa. Although the okapi bears striped markings similar to zebra, it is most closely related to the giraffe.
The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, except that okapis have much shorter necks. Both species have very long (approximately 35 centimetres), flexible, blue tongues that they use to strip leaves and buds from trees. Forget geckos - the okapi tongue is long enough to wash its eyelids and clean its ears (inside and out).
Okapis are herbivores, eating tree leaves and buds, grass, ferns, fruit, and fungi. Many of the plant species fed upon by the okapi are poisonous to humans.They also consume charcoal from trees burnt by lightning and fufill their salt requirement by consuming a reddish clay found near rivers and streams.
The name “okapi” is a combination of two Lese words, oka a verb meaning to cut and kpi which is a noun referring to the design made on Efé arrows — by wrapping the arrow with bark it leaves stripes when scorched by fire. The stripes on the legs of the okapi resemble these stripes on the arrow shafts.
Leopard - Okapi predator
OKAPI by Steve J O’Brien on Flickr. :)