July 9, 2009

Okapi born in Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo has welcomed its fifth baby okapi, the first of the species to be delivered at the zoo since December 2007.

The okapi, the only surviving species closely related to the giraffe, is native to the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is threatened by a long running civil war.

The zoo announced Thursday the latest arrival, a female named Kalispell, was born June 27. At the moment, Kalispell is still in seclusion with her mother.

The okapi, which stands about 5 feet tall when full-grown, looks something like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra, with a relatively long neck -- although short compared to a giraffe -- and black-and-white striped legs and hindquarters, although their bodies are covered with reddish fur. They are known for their foot-long purple tongues.

Ninety okapi are now living in U.S. zoos, producing about six young a year. Experts are unsure how many survive in the wild since okapi like to keep out of sight in the forests.