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Okapi's

By:Kohko Kamimura

The majestic creatures of Africa

This book is dedicated to...

Ms.Jones

and

Ms. Mancuso

and 

All of my encouraging buddies

I Dedicate This

 

Book To....

 

Ms. Jones

 

and 

 

 

The Bronx Zoo

OKAPI

           A majority of the world’s population has never seen this majestic creature because it is both endangered and shy. Another reason is because okapis only roam freely in Africa in the wild. Have you ever traveled to Africa? If you haven’t that is most likely the reason as to why you have not seen an okapi. On the other hand, I have seen an okapi and if you are wondering where,I had traveled to the Bronx Zoo and admired the phenomenal product of nature, the Okapi.

     Okapis gallop, trot, and sashay through the beams of daylight. This beautiful species of mammal are “diurnal creatures” meaning that they are awake during the day and asleep during the night. They are almost the opposite of what bats are in the sense that bats are nocturnal. Unfortunately, there is a confusing side to being diurnal as an okapi because they would also stay awake for 24 hours even at night if needed.

 

    

          Okapis are mammals, they are cloven-hooved animals, and they are also related to the giraffe which is their only living ancestor. Okapis also have  a “little bit of horse genes”mixed into their DNA which contributes to why the front half of an okapi is physically similar to the horse. Even though many people mistakenly think that okapis are a hybrid of a zebra and a horse but the okapi just happens to have zebra stripes for camouflage in the tall grasses. They both originated from the same ancestor, Canthumeryx.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

     The okapis had once been thought to be mythical beings by the Equatorial African people. They were called the ‘African Unicorn’. At one point the okapi was thought to be a giant. Western explorers went to the African region and didn’t find a unicorn, the reports to “the press” were “a donkey, then a zebra … was a giraffe” In the end, it turned out to be the Okapis.

    

MYTHS

           Apparently, there were also many superstitions surrounding the okapi. One of them was, “Wearing a portion of the skin was purported to endow the wearer with the cunning of an okapi to elude its enemies.”(pg.50)* However, there were also terrible superstitions, this one in particular may have helped stop so much illegal hunting and poaching, “To kill an okapi improperly could many curses upon the reckless offender.”I can only wonder how the indigenous peoples minds worked.

 

*A quote from The Okapi- Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire by Mary Neel Green

          The okapis were truly discovered in 1901 by the western explorer Sir Harry Johnston. Even though they had been sighted before in 1871 and the indigenous people already knew about them and had created a myth about  them. However they were not listed as their own species because there had been no proof or evidence to support the claims of having seen this “AfricanUnicorn”. On the other hand, Sir Harry Johnston sent a skull of the okapi and a carcass of another which was a vital piece of evidence. It had been a very surprising discovery since the okapi is a very large animal(as big as a full grown horse!) and  had gone undetected for a very long amount of time.

 

DISCOVERY

           Okapis live mostly in Africa, though quite a few have been brought to

zoos, such as the bronx zoo. Although, they had originally lived in the

Democratic Republic of the Congo.(I’d like to travel to africa someday and go

on a safari trail to see an okapi if I am lucky.) They would usually settle in the

mountain rainforests of Africa. However, due to deforestation, logging, and

human settlement, the okapis have become endangered.

The okapis had stayed in Africa (well most of them anyways) because

they had everything that they needed. Especially the scrumptious leaves and

flowers as well as berries and fruits. The clay, burnt tree bark, fungi, ferns, and

many other different types of plant. Having a large amount of these kinds of

vegetation since okapis can eat up to 27 kilograms a day.

 

HABITAT

          Okapis have more than twenty strange but helpful features. However, I

will only zoom in on the most helpful adaptations that they have. Such as

having scent glands on their hooves where they “ secreet ” a special

substance that alerts other okapi that they are trespassing through another’s

territory. They are also very well camouflaged which makes them protected

from predators. Imagine looking like half a horse and then having zebra

stripes on your back. These zebra-like stripes are what camouflage the okapi

so well from predators in the tall grasses and maybe even from humans since

they were just recently discovered in 1901.

         

PHYSICAL 

            Since there are so many physical features of the okapi I will create a

 second paragraph so that you,dear reader,are well informed about the weird

 adaptations of this fascinating animal. Another weird fact is that okapis can

 stay awake for a 24 hour period of time only resting for 5 minutes of that

 amount of time. In addition to that listed fact,they have small horns that are

 similar to that of a giraffes, but a bit longer and start to grow at about 1

 year. Furthermore, okapis also have an 18-inch long tongue! Imagine having

 all 18 inches of tongue rolled up in your mouth every day! Their tongue is so

 long that it is both used to clean their eyelids and grab branches to eat

 vegetation. That concludes my lengthy list of unique characteristics to the

 Okapi.

 

FEATURES

          Do you ever wonder how young animals never get lost when they are

following their mothers? Well, this is the okapis trick. They are able to memorize the stripe markings on the back of their mother. This makes it easier to follow a mother through dense undergrowth and the “foliage” of the leaves. An okapis life cycle is its own unique pattern unlike many other “mammalians”. Okapi mothers are only known to have had one calf at a time. When the okapi calf is first born , it is able to stand within thirty minutes. Then, the calf follows its mother for its first two days of their life. During those two days, the okapi calf will memorize its mother’s stripe markings. Next, the calf will preserve strength and energy for the next few months hiding in a nest. This helps the okapi gain strength and grow almost triple in size. After that, an okapi’s zebra-like white stripes will begin to show and a male okapis horns may begin to grow at around one year of age. To continue they will usually live for about twenty-five to thirty years.  

 

LIFE CYCLE

         Almost a century ago an okapi was being transported. What do you think happened? Unfortunately, the conditions were not the best and since the discovery of the animal were quite recent, the okapi was starved and did not survive. It is still considerably difficult to transport an okapi from the wild to captivity.

 

HISTORY 

The Okapis only exist in the Democratic Republic of Congo now unfortunately due to poaching and illegal bushmeat hunting.

          Since the okapis are endangered there are a few very well protected okapi wildlife areas. The rangers that patrol the area are on the careful lookout for poachers or armed rebels, who come to attack the okapi for their meat or skins. There is even a website for the conservation of okapis called www.okapiconservation.org. A study even shows that the wild okapi population has gone down by 50% in 15 years. Okapis are endangered by many other things such as illegal hunting, habitat loss, bushmeat hunting, logging and human settlement.

 

ENDANGERED

         Okapis are this creature. Aren’t they beautiful? I would love to see them some day in the wild in Africa. Or better yet, I’d love to be able to touch them and their velvety fur.

         However, they do sometimes have parasites in their stomach and also eat some poisonous leaves so I may change my mind about that thought quickly. The most dangerous type of parasite is a nematode. It is probably from what is on the vegetation that they eat. On the other hand, every animal has a bad side so I still am very attached to the animal okapi.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?

OTHER HORNED AFRICAN MAMMALS

Addax

The Addax is also in the antelope family and resides in the Sahara desert. Addax are critically endangered due to illegal hunting. However, they used to live abundantly in North Africa. In May, 2016 only 3 addax were left in the wild accoding to Scientific American.

Beisa Oryox

The Beisa Oryox is an antelope and can be found mostly in East Africa where they thrive in semi-desert areas. They are able to survive in the hot and dry climate because their body can raise its temperature so they do not lose precious water through perspiration.

Bongo

 The Bongo is the largest antelope species in Africa. Bongos usually inhabit west and central Africa. They are also a critically endangered species. 

Limpopo Bushbuck

The Limpopo Bushbuck is another antelope and makes a home for itself in sub-saharan Africa. Even though the Limpopo Bushbuck is hunted very often it is not even close to being endangered, their conervation status is least concern.

The Okapis can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wild now and are still a bit rare to be found in zoos since it is still very challenging to transport them.

EXISTENCE MAP