SAN ANTONIO, Texas - A rare baby okapi has joined the San Antonio Zoo.
The male calf was born Saturday, Sept. 2 to first-time parents Ludimi and Epulu and for now will remain behind the scenes with his mother, says the zoo.
The calf will receive his "Texas nickname" at this year's Zoobilation Ball, the zoo's largest annual fundraiser, on Nov. 10. The naming opportunity will be one of the live auction packages at the event.
(San Antonio Zoo)
According to the zoo, okapi were unknown to the western world until they were discovered by western scientists in 1901. Today the species is endangered due to significant threats, including poaching, habitat destruction, and human encroachment on their natural habitat.
Baby okapi gestate for 14 months, and within as little as 30 minutes after birth, they can stand on their own. In the wild, baby okapis are protected from predators in nests for two months while they nurse.
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While their appearance may be reminiscent of zebras, okapis are actually closer to giraffes and belong to the Giraffidae family, says the zoo. Okapi also have impressively long tongues, measuring up to 14 inches, which allow them to strip leaves from vegetation in their natural habitat: the dense jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
(San Antonio Zoo)
The San Antonio Zoo says the calf's birth serves as a "powerful reminder of the urgent need for conservation efforts."
The Zoo helps support preservation efforts for the Congo Basin Rainforests, which in addition to okapi, are home to numerous unique plants and animals, including mountain gorillas, forest elephants, chimps, bonobos, and pygmy hippos.