Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Okapi - The Giraffe's Cousin

With its striking stripes, the okapi may seem to resemble a type of zebra. However, this African mammal is actually a member of the giraffe family, and is the giraffe’s closest living relative.
Okapis are native to the rainforests of Central Africa near the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite their small range, okapis are not considered endangered and have an estimated worldwide population of 10,000-20,000.

Okapis have a similar body shape to giraffes but have a much shorter neck. They have zebra-like stripes on their legs and lower body, and reddish-black fur on their backs. Due to their rainforest habitat, this fur is oily to repel water. Okapis usually measure six to eight feet long and weigh between 440 and 660lb.

Like giraffes, okapis have long and sticky tongues to help strip the leaves and buds they eat from trees, as well as wash their eyes and ears. Keeping eyes and ears clean is important to the okapi, as it must always listen and watch for its main natural predator, the leopard.

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