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Okapi and Giraffe: Giraffidae

Okapi (okapia Johnstoni): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Okapis weigh 462 to 550 pounds (210 to 250 kilograms) and stand 5 to 5.6 feet (150 to 170 centimeters) at the shoulder. Females are taller than males.

Geographic range: Okapis are restricted to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Habitat: The okapi lives in tropical lowland forest near water.

Diet: Okapis feed on more than 100 species of plants, including some that are poisonous to humans. They also eat ferns, fungi, fruit,

Okapis feed on more than 100 species of plants, including some that are poisonous to humans. (© William Munoz/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

and grasses. Okapis ingest charcoal from trees burned by lightning. They use well-worn paths to travel between feeding sites.

Behavior and reproduction: Most active during the day. Not territorial, but males will fight for dominance. Okapis are usually silent but will make coughing sounds during rutting (mating) season. Okapi young are more vocal and make coughing and bleating sounds like a lamb. They groom one another and exhibit playful behavior.

Okapis give birth to a single calf from August to October after about fifteen months of pregnancy. Females retreat into the dense forest growth to give birth. Protective mothers warn off trespassers by beating the ground with their front legs. Lifespan is thirty years in captivity. The main predator of the okapi is the leopard.

Okapis and people: Zoos keep and breed okapis today. When the species was initially discovered, zoos lost many okapis in transport because they were unable to survive the long boat and train rides.

Conservation status: Okapis are not currently threatened, but are protected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because their distribution range is so limited. Populations are healthy. ∎



Leach, Michael, et al. Giraffe: Habitats, Life Cycles, Food Chains, Threats. Milwaukee: Raintree, 2002.

Lyndaker, Susan, et al. Okapi: Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

Sherr, Lynn. Tall Blondes. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1997.


Meadows, Robin. "A Neck Up on the Competition." Zoogoer (July/August 1996). http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/1996/4/neckuponcompetition.cfm (accessed on June 4, 2004).

Web sites:

"Okapi." The Big Zoo. http://www.thebigzoo.com/Animals/Okapi.asp (accessed on June 4, 2004).

Palkovacs, E. "Okapi johnstoni." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Okapia_johnstoni.html (accessed on June 4, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsOkapi and Giraffe: Giraffidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Giraffe (giraffa Camelopardalis): Species Accounts, Okapi (okapia Johnstoni): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, OKAPIS GIRAFFES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION