A rare okapi has been born at ZSL London Zoo and keepers have named the new arrival Meghan, in celebration of this year’s forthcoming royal wedding.
Native to the dense rainforests of the Congo in central Africa, the okapi is a relative of the giraffe, with a long prehensile tongue used to grab branches and leaves and striped zebra-like front and hind quarters providing a natural camouflage. The shy and elusive okapis were only discovered by western zoologists from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) in 1901.
Okapis face many threats in the wild including habitat loss, hunting and natural predators such as leopards, which has lead to a fall in numbers. ZSL are now working with partners to develop a dedicated conservation programme to protect the okapi.
Zookeeper Gemma Metcalf said: “A new birth is always cause for celebration, but Meghan’s important arrival is also a great opportunity to draw attention to the okapi, which is an extremely endangered species.”
After a 14-month gestation, it was a relatively speedy birth for first-time mum Oni, with the youngster emerging in just over half an hour (Saturday 9 December 2017) – it wasn’t long before keepers – watching on camera from the next room – saw the newborn rise up to take her first tentative steps towards mum for a feed.
“We’re very pleased with how mother and baby are doing. Oni is being very attentive, making sure she regularly licks her clean and keeping a watchful eye over Meghan as she sleeps.”
To find out more about visiting ZSL London Zoo go to www.zsl.org
Footage of the new okapi arrival can be viewed here