The Lowry Park Zoo has welcomed a new baby into its fold.
A rare okapi calf was born Jan. 6, representing the first birth of the new year at the zoo, according to a news release sent by the zoo. It's also the first okapi birth of the year in the North American population. The breed is a forest giraffe found only in Central Africa.
The calf joins other notable zoo babies born in the past few months: a pygmy hippo born Nov. 15 and African elephant born Dec. 23.
The calf, now three weeks old and 96 pounds (up from 64 at birth), spends his days nursing, sleeping and following its mother around the barn, said the news release. For the time being, he will "nest" in a suitable hiding spot identified by the mother, likely inside the barn.
The species was just discovered in the 20th century, according to the release. The hoofed mammals are found in the rain forests of northern, central and eastern regions of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Okapis have reddish-brown, velvet-like coats with horizontal zebra-like striping on their hindquarters and legs. The unique color pattern allows them to disappear into dense vegetation in the forests where they live. The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, but okapis have much shorter necks. These unusual animals also have large upright ears with a keen sense of hearing, and long, dark prehensile tongues that they use to pluck vegetation from trees and shrubs, said the news release.