Okapi Grand Hotel
When it came time to build Habitat Africa: The Forest, a new exhibit that would focus on okapi, these learnings about the species moved front and center to help design the off-exhibit holding areas. The large open, flexible quarters are ideal for the forest giraffes’ comfort and security. But despite the generous quarters, lots more space is necessary when calves come into the equation. With a gestation period of 14.5 months, keepers have their hands full figuring out when to set up “dates” for the okapi guys and gals. These introductions must be planned so that if they are successful, the resulting births take place in warm weather months so that mom and calf have indoor and outdoor space. This ensures the calf can nest and mom can still have space of her own.
Today, the exhibit is home to four okapis. Two males (Ulimi and Makubasi) and two females (Panya and Semliki). The females have extremely different personalities: Panya is standoffish and does not interact with keepers very much; Semliki (who is named for a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), on the other hand is a layed back two-year-old who seems to love it when keepers groom her. Makubasi will likely leave for another zoo soon.
At the zoo, their caregivers have access to amazing tools. Brookfield Zoo’s endocrinology lab monitors their stress levels and watches for signs of pregnancy. Staff in the nutrition lab work to create a diet that mimics the leaves okapi would eat in Africa. This work is essential as Brookfield Zoo continues to lead the way in okapi care. The animals are rare in zoos, represented in only 24 North American and Japanese zoos and 15 in Europe. Brookfield Zoo research has led the way to grow the zoo population from 15 to 85 animals in North America. To date 27 okapi have been born at Brookfield Zoo.
Next time you are at the zoo, make sure these amazing phantoms of the forest do not elude you!
Okapi are browsers, which means that they eat leaves and food off of tree brances. Keepers like to give them branches to rip up for behavioral enrichment.
This is how an okapi pigs out!
Take a closer look at an okapi enjoying a treat
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Got White Sox fever? The Okapi is one of our MVPs!
Okapis have seriously white socks! So celebrate the team's success by purchasing a Share the Care package online and help the zoo care for the White Sox's biggest fans (at 600 pounds, they are at least the heaviest!) the okapi. Get a personalized certificate, animal photo, and more---just for showing you care.