Usala, the Okapi Calf Makes Debut at Chester Zoo


A shy okapi calf has made his début at Chester Zoo – thanks to some gentle encouragement from his mum.
The month-old youngster, named Usala, stepped out for the first time after emerging from his nest area.
But it took some steady persuasion from mum Stuma as okapis, and calves in particular, are notoriously elusive. Indeed the species, which is an unusual African animal that is the closest-living relative to the giraffe, was not even known to science until the early 20th century.

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Keeper Fiona Howe said: 

“Okapis are rather secretive animals and, up until now, Usala has been out of the spotlight, cozied up in his nest. But thanks to the support of mum Stuma, he’s now starting to explore.

“A trademark of the okapi is the stripy markings on their legs; designed to help offspring follow them through deep forest. And that’s exactly where you’ll tend to see Usala - sticking closely to his mum’s legs as she moves around foraging for food.

Stuma is an excellent mum and she’s doing a great job of helping her new charge gain confidence on his legs. She can often be seen offering him an affectionate nuzzle as reassurance that he’s doing well.”

Usala’s arrival is an important boost to the breeding programme for the endangered animals, increasing the number of okapis in zoos in the UK to 14.

In the wild the species can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where their numbers are in decline due to habitat loss and hunting for their meat.

Chester Zoo is working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) giraffe and okapi
specialist advisory group to develop a conservation strategy for okapis and also supports the DRC Wildlife Authority and their efforts to protect the species in the Ituri Forest in the DRC. Okapi born at Chester Zoo
Arrival of endangered calf caught on camera