News Release

 
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351, sondra.katzen@czs.org
 
May 26, 2017
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
NOTE: Images of the okapi calf at Brookfield Zoo can be downloaded below.
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Photos courtesy of Kelly Tone/Chicago Zoological Society.
 

Okapi Calf Born at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield, Ill.—An okapi calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 16. He has access to outside, but currently is spending the majority of his time indoors in a nesting site. When the calf is about 3 months old, zoogoers should see him and his mom, 6-year-old Augusta K, more regularly in their outdoor area. When not visible outside, guests can view a live video feed that will be set up in the zoo’s Habitat Africa! The Forest beginning next week.

In the wild, an okapi calf spends most of its first two months of life alone and hidden in vegetation to protect it from predators. The mom returns to the nesting site only to nurse her calf. Her nutritiously rich milk helps the young animal double its starting weight of about 60 pounds to nearly 120 pounds within its first month. Calves process their mother's milk very efficiently, and they do not defecate for 30 to 70 days, which makes it difficult for predators to locate them by smell.

This calf marks the 28th okapi born at Brookfield Zoo, which was the first zoo in North America to have a birth of this species in 1959. The pairing of Augusta K and the calf’s sire, 21-year-old Hiari, was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining breeding population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. This is the second offspring for the pair. Their last calf, also a male, was born in 2015.

Often referred to as “forest giraffes,” okapi’s closest relative is the giraffe. They have creamy white stripes on their hind end and front upper legs and white “ankle stockings” on their lower legs. The stripes help okapi blend into the shadows of the forest and make them very difficult to see, even when they are only a few feet away. Scientists speculate that okapi’s contrasting stripes are important for calf imprinting and act as a signal for a newborn to follow close behind its mother.

Okapi are rare hoofed mammals native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). American and European scientists discovered them in the early 1900s. The species is endangered due to civil unrest in the region, habitat deforestation, and illegal hunting. In 2013, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established the Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group (GOSG) to strategize and coordinate research and conservation efforts on behalf of both giraffid species. To assist in these efforts, in May 2016, the Chicago Zoological Society hosted the International Giraffid Conference at Brookfield Zoo. The four-day event brought together animal care professionals from around the world to network, learn, and share knowledge with specialists, curators, veterinarians, researchers, and conservationists.
 

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071
E-mail: Sondra.Katzen@CZS.org

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