(Okapia johnstoni)




Facts about this animal

This forest-dwelling cousin of the giraffe is also unmistakable due to its very peculariar shape and colouration. It reaches a head-body length of 200-210 cm, a shoulder height of 150-170 cm, and a body-weight of 20-250 kg. The eyes are large and dark, the ears large and broad, the tongue very long. Males have one pair of short backward directed frontal horns that are covered with hair. The body is short and compact with a sloping back like the giraffe, but the neck is much shorter. The legs are rather long in proportion to the body. The tail is about 30-42 cm long and has a terminal tuft.
The fur is short and sleek. Its general colour is velvety dark chestnut. The sides of the head are light grey, The upper parts of the forelgs, lower rump, tighs and buttocks are marked with sharply contrasted conspicuous transverse white stripes. The lower parts of the limbs are white except for a longitudinal dark stripe in front of the forelegs and a horizontal black band above the hooves on each leg.
The okapi's preferred habitat is dense, damp forest. It is diurnal, and lives solitary, in pairs or in small family gropups, never in herds.
After a pregnancy of 425 to 491 day one single calf of a bout 16 kg is born during the rainy season from August to October. Females attain sexual maturity ar an age of about 20 months. Under zoo conditions okapis may reach an age of well over 30 years.
Okapis arebrowsers feeding on the leaves, fruit and seeds of many plants.
The classification of the okapi as a giraffe species has been challenged recently (Kurt Benirschke, 2006, in Zool. Garten NF  76, 197-198) and have been put forward suggesting that the okapi is a close relative of the nilghai antelope of India, which has the same number of chromosomes, the same chemical composition of the bile, and a similar placenta structure.

Did you know?
that the okapi was the last large African mammal species to become known to science? It has been described in 1901 by the then Secretary of the London Zoological Society, on the basis of some small skin pieces, as "Equus (?) johnstoni sp.nov., an apparently new species of zebra from the Semliki Forest". In 1904 the geologist Dr. J. J. David of Basel (Switzerland) was the first European whoever saw, and shot, an okapi. The skin and skeleton of this animal are still preserved at the Basel Natural History Museum. In 1919 the first live okapi arrived in Europe, where it lived, for only 51 days, at Antwerp Zoo. In 1954, Antwerp was also the first zoo where an Okapi was bred.


Name (Scientific) Okapia johnstoni
Name (English) Okapi
Name (French) Okapi
Name (German) Okapi
Name (Spanish) Okapi
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Zaire
Habitat Tropical rainforest
Wild population Between 35.000-50.000 individual (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 130 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Mark Pellegrini

Why do zoos keep this animal

The okapi is a unique species in many respects hence of significant educational value. It is an enigmatic species, which is a good ambassador for the threatened biocenosis of the Congo rain forest. While rated a Lower Risk species by IUCN, it has to be recognized that its range is relatively small and located in a politically unstable region. The building up and maintenance of a viable ex situ population is therefore an important precautionary measure to ensure the longer term survival of the species. Almost all zoos keeping okapis financially support okapi conservation in the Ituri Forest.