What looks like a cross between a zebra, a donkey and a giraffe, sporting a purple tongue long enough to wipe its own eyelids? Why, the okapi of course!
Mbaya lives with her mom, Kweli, in a special refuge for okapis at the Bronx Zoo.
Okapi have solid, dark red backs, with striking horizontal white stripes on their front and back legs, making them resemble zebras from a distance. Their faces resemble their closest relative – the giraffe, but with shorter necks.
Rarely seen to humans, okapi are the only animal with a tongue long enough (think 18 inches) to lick its own ears.
Mbaya was born this spring, weighing in at a petite 65 pounds. Full grown okapi range between 440 and 660 pounds, wildlife experts said.
"We are pleased that our okapi breeding program here at the Bronx Zoo has so been successful," said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and Senior Vice President of WCS’s Living Institutions. “Okapi are incredibly shy creatures. We are pleased to give our visitors this rare, close-up glimpse of this amazing animal.”
Europeans first encountered the okapi around 1900.
In 1937, the Bronx Zoo acquired the first okapi in North America.
In the wild, okapi are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they live in heavily forested areas where they are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Like many animals in Central Africa, they are in danger because of illegal hunting.
The Wildlife Conservation Society helped establish the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the DRC in 1992.