Advertisement
  1. Travel

Super cute, endangered giraffe-like baby okapi born at ZooTampa

The animal care and veterinarian teams at ZooTampa at Lowry Park have welcomed the birth of an endangered okapi calf. Okapi (pronounced oh-COP-ee) are the only living relative of the giraffe and are found in the remote forests of central Africa. The calf was born to parents Betty and Zach who arrived at the zoo in 2006 and are part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums designed to help save endangered wildlife. The okapiâ\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308â\u0080\u009A\u0084¢s birth draws much-needed attention to a shy animal in desperate need of saving. These solitary chocolate brown animals with a face resembling a giraffe and zebra-like striped legs hide within the dense greenery of the Ituri Forest of Democratic Republic of Congo, where conflict and their secretive lives makes studying them a challenge. â\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308â\u0089\u0088\u0093Exact numbers are difficult to determine, but an estimated 10,000 â\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308â\u0080\u009A\u0080\u009C 35,000 live in the protected reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,â\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308¬\u009D said Massaro. â\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308â\u0089\u0088\u0093Unfortunately, their numbers continue to decline, due to human encroachment and hunting, making this an extremely important birth for ZooTampa and the Species Survival Plan to protect wildlife.â\u0088\u009A¢â\u0080\u009A\u0082 \u0308¬\u009D
Published Aug. 30, 2018

A shy endangered animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and zebra has given birth. ZooTampa at Lowry Park is puffed up and proud of the new parents and their part in easing the mother's transition to a successful birth.

But first, look at that cute baby girl okapi (pronounced oh-COP-ee) with legs that look like they are sporting knee socks.

She was born to parents Betty and Zach, who arrived at the Tampa zoo in 2006 and are part of the Species Survival Plan of the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums.

These solitary chocolate brown animals with a face resembling a giraffe and zebra-like striped legs are native to the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where conflict and human encroachment have reduced their numbers to an estimated 10,000 to 35,000.

The okapi, sometimes called a forest giraffe, are the only living relative of the giraffe, and this birth "draws much-needed attention to a shy animal in desperate need of saving," a zoo news release said.

Veterinarians at the zoo tended to Betty's prenatal care. That included regular ultrasounds, a high-energy diet and for the first time in this species, a milk-testing method found helpful in horses and rhinoceros to predict Betty's calving date.

"By increasing Betty's prenatal care, we saw physical changes that predicted calving," Ray Ball, vice president of medical sciences and senior veterinarian at ZooTampa said in a news release. "This included a dramatic change in her mammary glands and her hindquarters getting softer in preparation for the birth. The milk sampling also allowed us to determine her milk was good quality and helped us evaluate Betty's overall health."

Although reticent by nature, Betty is quite comfortable with zookeepers and allowed them to collect milk samples used in the testing.

Zoo officials did not say when or if the calf can be viewed by zoo visitors.

"As a natural defense against predators, okapi mothers hide their calves away in nests. The calf will spend its time in the nest leaving only to nurse," said Chris Massaro, General Curator at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. "While guests eagerly await the calf to venture out into its habitat, we'll post updates with pictures and videos on social media to share her progress."

At 2 years old, the age at which an okapi calf typically reaches maturity and naturally branches out on its own, the calf will likely move to a new home as part of the Species Survival Plan, zoo officials said. ZooTampa participates in the Okapi Conservation Project, an international effort to protect the species from extinction, as part of its mission to protect and conserve endangered and threatened wildlife.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Earlier today• Arts & Entertainment
    Phil Collins performs in Tampa's Amalie Arena on Thursday, the first time in 15 years.
    Pop legend Phil Collins returns, the Florida Orchestra kicks off its season and author Salman Rushdie is in Tampa to talk about his new novel.
  2. A scene from a balcony cabin on a 2017 Alaskan cruise. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it for the rest of your life.
  3. Visitors ride the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Tampa theme park Busch Gardens, which has put its 2020 Fun Card on sale early. AP/Busch Gardens
    Buy your 2020 Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Fun Card and get a few months free, plus more sales for Florida residents.
  4. Tampa theme park Busch Gardens has announced a new hybrid wooden and steel coaster coming in 2020: Iron Gwazi. At more than 200 feet tall, the under-construction ride will become North America's tallest hybrid coaster, and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The parks revealed a slate of new attractions aimed to steady the company’s future.
  5. "Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle," the new light projection show at Universal Orlando, will open this weekend, running on select nights through Nov. 15. Universal Orlando
    Death Eaters, Voldemort and other creepy creatures from the world of Harry Potter star in the nighttime display.
  6. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected haunted house at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can also catch a talk from Dick Vitale at St. Petersburg theater the Palladium.
  7. Chewbacca stands in front of the Millennium Falcon at the Black Spire Outpost at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Social media was awash this week with Disney and Star Wars fans breezing through Galaxy’s Edge as Hurricane Dorian pushed many from theme parks.
  8. Sand sharks swim around the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. As a Hurricane Dorian stress reliever, the Channel District aquarium will provide $15 admission through Friday. JULIETTE LYNCH  |  Tampa Bay Times (2011)
    The $15 ticket deal aims to be a stress reliever after a week of hurricane preparation.
  9. A ghost orchid can be seen, near the center of the frame, on a tree in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Monday, Aug. 12, 2019 in Naples. The ghost orchid spends most of the year looking like a nondescript green lump on the side of a tree. CHRIS URSO   |   Times CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    To see this “super ghost orchid” you don’t even need to get your feet wet.
  10. Lauren and Steven Keys at the entrance sign to Haleakala National Park in Maui. Keys Photography
    Lauren and Steven Keys finished before the 103rd anniversary of the National Park Service last week.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement