Which Animal Is the Zebra Giraffe?
Also known as the zebra giraffe, the okapi is a hoofed mammal that is endemic to Africa, particularly in a small range within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The okapi has a zebra-like body that measures approximately 4.9 feet at shoulder height and 8.2 feet in length. The species can weigh between 440 and 770 pounds, depending on the sex. The zebra giraffe can be recognized by several unique features, including its longer-than-average neck, as well as legs covered in white stripes that stand out against its dark, reddish brown fur. The okapi's long neck and stripes are most likely the source of its zebra giraffe nickname. Additionally, the okapi has a white-colored face with a reddish brown tuft of hair on top of its head. Like the giraffe, the okapi species belongs to the Giraffidae family. It is a relatively solitary animal that tends only to socialize during breeding season. The okapi is active during the daytime, consumes a vegetarian diet, and is the only forest ungulate species that relies on the undergrowth for the majority of its dietary needs.
Where Does the Zebra Giraffe Live?
The okapi is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and lives in the tropical canopy forests at elevations of between 1,600 and 4,900 feet above sea level. The okapi typically avoids areas with an excessive amount of water, such as swamp forests. During rainy season, okapis make their way to higher grounds to find vegetation not available in wetter areas. Within the DRC, the okapi can be found on both sides of the Congo River, as well as near Lake Tele and the Ituri forest in the north. At one time, the species also inhabited some regions of Uganda, although the country's okapi population is now extinct. Researchers report that one okapi may live in an area that measures approximately three-quarters of a square mile.
Threats Faced by the Zebra Giraffe
Today, the okapi is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as an endangered species since its population size has steadily declined since 1995. The okapi was previously classified as "near threatened" in 2008, but its status was changed to "endangered" in 2013. The biggest threat facing the species is loss of habitat, which is the result of human development, mining, and logging activities infringing upon the okapi's native range. To avoid these activities, many okapi populations tend to concentrate themselves in protected areas and reserves, but even these regions are now threatened by the human activity of militant groups. Armed individuals take over reserves to avoid detection by the authorities, and often practice illegal animal poaching and natural resource extraction. In addition to forcing okapis out of the reserve territories, militant groups infringe upon conservation and research efforts aimed at protecting the species. The okapi is also prized as bushmeat and for its unique fur.