FaunaFocus

Monthly Archives: July 2018

Danji Isthmus
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Lack of knowledge endangers the okapi as little field research has been done on the species due to its inaccessible habitat and reclusive nature.

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Rather than having the normal 46 chromosomes, okapi more commonly have 45 or 44 chromosomes, a number that’s usually abnormal or fatal for other animals.

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Because of its long legs, the okapi can gallop at speeds of 56.3kph, but like giraffes, the okapi must splay its legs to reach the ground when drinking.

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Because okapi have poor eyesight, calves rely on the white coloration on their mothers’ lower legs to contrast against the dark forest, thus allowing them to easily follow behind.

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Okapis show dominance with body posture, as dominant okapi maintain an erect stature and subordinates lower their heads to the ground in submission.

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Okapis have few vocalizations, but will chuff, moan, and bleat as important social interactions in bonding, courting, and times of distress.

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An okapi calf will spend 80% of its first 2 months hiding motionless and alone in a nest, infrequently nursing, in order to remain undetected by predators.

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Okapi have declined 50% in the last 24 years and are listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN due to habitat loss, deforestation, and poaching.

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Okapis are generally tranquil, but males can be aggressive when competing for females, engaging in neck fighting, head butting, head throwing, kicking, charging, and slapping.

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Young okapi are precocial and may nurse after 21 minutes and stand after just 30 minutes, but won’t be fully developed until 3 years of age.

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With its large auditory bullae and 25cm external ear lobes, the okapi has acute hearing and can hear and transmit low-frequency infrasonic sounds below audible range for humans.

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Okapis use tree rubbing, feces, and dance-like crossed-legged movements while urinating to mark their territory, doing so most often during courtship.

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Okapi calves are born with a conspicuous mane and long, “false eyelashes” around their eyes that are largely lost by adulthood.

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Social grooming and play behavior, such as tail wagging and rolling on the ground, is common in both sexes and all age classes of okapi, though infants play more frequently than adults.

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Like the giraffe and unlike other ungulates, the okapi simultaneously steps with the front and hind leg on the same side of the body.

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After a 440-day gestation period, female okapis retreat into dense forest vegetation to give birth to a single newborn calf weighing 14-20 kg.

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The okapi’s lifespan is about 15-33 years in captivity, but data from wild populations is unavailable.

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The most giraffe-like feature of the okapi is the long, dark blue-violet, prehensile tongue which is used for plucking from trees and shrubs as well as for grooming.

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Okapi keep defined, non-exclusive, overlapping home ranges with males maintaining more land than females and breeding females having more stable ranges.

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Male okapi possess ossicones, a pair of supraorbital, hair-covered frontal horns that can grow up to 15 cm in length and incline posteriodorsally from the skull.

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The okapi is the only species of forest ungulate to depend on understory foliage and feeds on more than 100 species of vegetation, many of which are poisonous to humans.

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There is sexual dimorphism in the okapi as females are taller and slightly more red than males, have smaller home ranges, and lack the frontal horns that males possess.

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The okapi differs from its nearest extant relative, the giraffe, in habitat, size, proportion, coloration, vocalizations, and other distinguishable features.

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Okapi were previously thought to be nocturnal, but are now considered diurnal with 30-50% of their day spent resting, and foraging occurring in the mid-morning or late afternoon.

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Okapi are limited to closed, high canopy forests and dense rainforests and frequent river banks and stream beds.

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The okapi has a striking visual appearance and unique color pattern that allows it to disappear into the background of dense vegetation and rotting leaves where it lives.

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Okapis are endemic to the tropical rainforests of northeastern Zaire and are generally limited to altitudes between 450 and 1,000 meters.

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In the wild, okapi are mainly solitary and occur alone or in mother-offspring pairs, usually only coming together for mating.

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The okapi is a medium-sized giraffid resembling a horse and averaging 2.5 m long, 1.5 m tall at the shoulder, and 250 kg.

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Although the okapi falls under the Giraffidae family and is related to the giraffe, some researchers debate it’s a closer relative to the nilgai antelope in the Bovidae family.

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The okapi has larger, more flexible ears and a relatively longer neck than other ruminants, perhaps correlated with locomotor coordination of the giraffid pacing gait.

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The brachyodont teeth of okapi are like other paleotragines, but it has smaller incisors and larger cheek teeth.