The okapi is the only living relative of giraffes and looking closer you can see the similarities. It has camouflaging body patterns, large ears and the males have stout horns above the eyes (ossicones).
They even have a similar long, prehensile (meaning that it can grasp things) tongue, just like a giraffe. This helps them to quickly strip leaves from tree branches.
They are however, much more ellusive. Living in the rainforests of central Africa, it helps to be a little shorter than their long-necked relatives (around 6ft or 180cm tall). Their dark fur and stripy markings camouflage them in the shadows under the dense rainforest canopy. It is said that the stripes look like bands of light coming through the trees.
Like many wild species, they are under threat from the impact of human activities. The okapi is entirely dependent on the forest sanctuary for its survival, and so the impacts of deforestation, along with poaching and mining activities, have led to its rapid decline. With 50% of the wild population thought to have been lost in just 15 years.
Initiatives such as World Okapi Day are helping to raise awareness of this little-known animal, and protect the whole rainforest ecosystem on which it relies.
You can help too! Create an okapi, complete with stripy bottom, and tell your family and friends all about it. You can even use our Habitat Maker video below to build a rainforest home for lots of Crafty Creatures.
Create an Okapi
You will need:
- Card or thick paper
- Pens or pencils
- Okapi template
- Print or draw your own okapi template.
- Colour the okapi in. Don’t forget their white and brown face markings and stripy bottom.
- Cut out your okapi pieces.
- Your okapi will be 3-dimensional, so be sure to colour in the back of each piece.
- Now slot the pieces together to have them standing!
Learn more about our okapi specimen from learning officer Roz Wade in Animal Bytes
Discover more about the Okapi and it’s rainforest home from the Okapi Conservation Project
Find out more about a rainforest habitat in a trip to Borneo with learning assistant Sara Steele in Across the Continents