Rare okapi calf steps outside for the first time

Rare okapi calf steps outside for the first time
Okapi calf Kora steps outside for the first time since being born at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)

A rare okapi calf has ventured out of her nest for the first time since she was born at Chester Zoo.

Calf Kora was born at the Cheshire zoo in December and named after a small village in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is the only part of the world where the animals can be found in the wild.

The new arrival, born to parents Ada and Stomp, is part of an endangered species breeding programme.

Okapi calf Kora was born to parents Ada and Stomp (Chester Zoo/PA)Okapi calf Kora was born to parents Ada and Stomp (Chester Zoo/PA)

Zookeeper Rosie Owen said: “Kora is an incredibly special calf and, for the first two months of life, she’s been snuggled up quietly bonding with mum – all the while building up the courage to step outside for the very first time.

“Okapi calves use the stripy markings on the hind legs of their parents to follow them through deep forest habitat, and that’s exactly where you’ll see Kora – sticking closely to her mum’s side until she finds her feet. The pair have bonded brilliantly and are inseparable.

“This is the first calf to be born to mum Ada as part of an endangered species breeding programme and she’s doing a wonderful job of caring for her new baby. She regularly feeds her, cleans her and even gives her gentle nudges of encouragement, it’s a real joy to watch.” 

Okapi were only discovered in 1901 and, because of their elusive nature, the species is nicknamed the African unicorn.

Threats such as habitat loss, hunting and civil unrest in the DRC have resulted in 50% of the okapi population being wiped out in the last 25 years.

An estimated 10,000 of the animals remain in the wild and the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the species as endangered.

Animal and plant director at Chester Zoo Mike Jordan said: “With only 14 okapis in zoos across the UK, and five of those being here at Chester, the arrival of Kora is a huge cause for celebration for this magnificent species.

“The okapi is one of the animal kingdom’s most mysterious creatures, and it has sadly undergone a huge decline over the last few decades, with numbers of reported sightings becoming less common.

“Its last remaining stronghold in the eastern DRC is an area of regular conflict and civil unrest – making conservation projects in the field extremely challenging.

“There’s now an increasing amount of pressure on modern zoos, like ours, to help boost numbers in conservation breeding programmes and care for a safety-net population to ensure its continued survival.”

The Conversation (0)