We welcome an endangered okapi calf

May 15, 2019

We’re celebrating the rare and safe arrival of an endangered okapi calf – and it’s a girl!

As both mum and calf are doing well, we have reopened the okapi house. But, Niari may be hidden away for a few more weeks as she is still in her ‘nesting’ phase. Until then, you’re welcome to quietly pop in and see if you can spot her!

The precious female calf has been named by keepers as Niari, which means ‘rare’ and is an area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where okapis are found in its tropical rainforests. 

First-time mum, Daphne, and Niari are both doing well and are currently off show, out of the public eye, to ensure they bond and the calf settles during the nesting period. 

Marwell Zoo 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.” 

Phil explains: “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.” 

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. 

Uniquely, okapi calves defecate for the first time after 30 to 40 days. A theory behind this adaptation is that it helps keep predators from sniffing out the hidden newborn until the calf has grown and gained strength. 

Okapis are incredibly eye-catching animals which are relatives of the giraffe. They have thick, reddish brown-black coats and like giraffes, okapis have the same body shape with long necks, long black tongues and males have horn-like ossicones on their head. Their hindquarters and front legs are black-and-white striped, reminiscent of a zebra’s.

For video footage of the birth and Daphne and Niari’s first venture outside, visit our Facebook page.