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San Diego Zoo celebrates the birth of endangered okapi calf

san diego zoo okapi birth
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 19:18:45-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Zoo officials this month welcomed the birth of an endangered okapi calf, the second surviving calf born at the zoo in less than two years.

The zoo said the unnamed male okapi, a rare species that is the closest living relative to the giraffe, took its first "wobbly" steps on Jan. 11. Video showed the calf's mother, Subira, giving birth to the floppy-eared animal, which resembles a cross between a zebra and giraffe.

"To see any animal take its first breath is an amazing experience," said Jennifer Chapman, senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. "We waited 14 months for this calf to arrive, so to finally be able to see him, know he is healthy and witness mom do an incredible job, we can't help but feel a sense of relief and pride."

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Staff will monitor the okapi and Subira to make sure they adjust well to a new home and motherhood.

Since okapis were first brought to the zoo in 1956, there have been more than 60 births, according to officials.

Okapi are often called the forest giraffe. While their stripes resemble a zebra, their head and neck are similar to that of a giraffe.

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The animal's native habitat is the tropical rainforests in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because of that, it needs to be able to navigate short trees and branches — something that would be very difficult with the stature of a giraffe.

Its stripes may be a way for the animals to locate each other in the forests or as camouflage, according to the zoo.

The birth is not only important because of the animal being endangered, but also because of the recent loss of a baby giraffe at the zoo's Safari Park location. In December 2018, staff said a baby giraffe was fatally gored by another animal at the Safari Park.