Saturday, July 28, 2007

What is it?!?

I knew when I did my Wordless Wednesday pic this week that I would probably get a few questions... and I was right!



What is that strange animal? It's an Okapi! Okapis are one of my favorite animals. They look like a zebra and a giraffe got together for a night of interesting fun, but the truth is that they are only related to the giraffe. I was hoping to get a tongue picture, but I wasn't lucky enough on this particular visit to get one. An Okapi tongue is an Amazing thing. They can actually lick their ears with their tongues! I personally love the little horns. They are very gentle, very sweet animals.

Okapis are still relatively rare in zoos, and it was good news to me that my favorite zoo was getting one. This little one is in the newest part of the zoo, and is a little off the beaten path. Some animals are a little more shy than others and require more privacy in their homes. Okapis are notoriously shy and are easily made uncomfortable if they feel crowded. This makes them a challenge to breed, but not impossible as most Okapis in zoos were bred in captivity. I am hoping that they are planning on trying to breed them here as a baby okapi is absolutely adorable. Click here and here for the chance to see a baby Okapi. Isn't she cute??

One of the coolest things about Okapis is that they were basically undiscovered till 1901. They were probably the last large mammal 'discovered' by the Western World. They live only in the Ituri Forest, and although they had probably been hunted by the natives, it wasn't until 1890 or so when rumors of a strange donkey like creature were exposed to the 'civilized' world. Even today they are one of the least documented and least understood of all animals in their natural habitat. Why? Mostly because they are very shy, very quick, and have excellent hearing so they hear any one approaching long before they can be seen. Here is a link that gives a little more info about their discovery. It is a very good article from the American Museum of Natural History. And here are a couple more with some interesting facts and a few more pictures for the young and young at heart.