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Animal Facts - Okapi

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In this page we will look at the Okapi.

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Is the Okapi a horse, a zebra or neither?

An Okapi is neither a horse nor a zebra; its nearest relative is the giraffe. The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, except that okapis have much shorter necks. Both species have very long (approx. 30 cm or 12 inch), flexible, blue tongues that they use to strip leaves and buds from trees. The tongue of an okapi is long enough for the animal to wash its eyelids and clean its ears; it is one of the few mammals that can lick its own ears.

Okapis have dark backs, with striking horizontal white stripes on the front and back legs, making them resemble zebras from a distance. These markings are thought to help young follow their mothers through the dense rain forest; they also serve as camouflage.

Okapis have several methods of communicating their territory, including scent glands on each foot that leave behind a tar-like substance which signals their passage, as well as urine marking. Males are protective of their territory, but allow females to pass through their domain to forage.

Okapis prefer altitudes of 500 to 1,000 m, but may venture above 1,000 m in the eastern montane rainforests. The range of the okapi is limited by high montane forests to the east, swamp forests below 500 m to the west, savannas of the Sahel/Sudan to the north, and open woodlands to the south. Okapis are most common in the Wamba and Epulu areas.

This video shows an Okapi in the African rainforest.

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