photo of young okapi

The okapi was one of the last mammals to be "discovered" by the scientific community (1900). It lives in the dense rainforests of northern Zaire. It is so shy and secretive that very little is known of its lifestyle. It is also one of the world's rarest animals found in captivity. There are about 30 000 in the wild (1997). Its closest relative is the giraffe. The okapi, however, is much smaller than its famous cousin, and its neck is not nearly as long. Its most striking feature is the broad white stripes on its legs and rump. These contrast with its nearly-black body. The okapi has a blue-black tongue which is about a foot long. The tongue can be wrapped around branches and vines which enables the gentle herbivore to strip the leaves and buds into its mouth. The okapi can even clean its eyes with its tongue.

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