Monday, 10 June 2013
Special delivery - a very important birth
On 11 May, Bristol Zoo welcomed a very special new arrival. Lodja, the Zoo’s resident female Okapi, gave birth to a healthy calf.
There are just 13 Okapis in UK zoos so the birth of Lodja’s calf is a huge boost to the breeding programme.
Related to the giraffe but with zebra markings, the Okapi is one of the most striking inhabitants of Bristol Zoo.
It is estimated there are only between 10,000 and 35,000 Okapis left in the wild. This species resides in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is most at risk by destruction of its rainforest home for timber and agriculture and ‘illegal hunting’.
Notoriously very shy and sensitive, Okapis are one of the hardest animals to see in the wild because they live in such dense forest and avoid noise.
Lynsey Bugg, Assistant Curator of Mammals says, “The new calf is doing brilliantly well. She is a good size and appears very strong, feeding nicely from Lodja. Okapi calves typically spend much of their day nesting, with mum only coming back to feed them for short periods and this is what we’ve been seeing.”
“Lodja is the perfect Okapi mum,” Lynsey continues. “She is calm and relaxed with, around her calf and is very gentle with her obviously very careful not to knock her when they are walking in close proximity together. Lodja is enjoying getting out in the paddock for short periods but is always mindful of what her calf is getting up to.”
Bristol Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to care for an Okapi in 1961 and the first UK zoo to breed one in 1963. The Zoo continues to be in the front-line of okapi conservation, being part of the captive Okapi Conservation Breeding Programme and helping to fund the 8,000 square mile Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The female okapi usually breeds every two to three years, having one baby (twins very rarely) which is identical in colour pattern to the adult. Pregnancy lasts 14-15 months and the baby is weaned at 10-12 months, but may stay with the mother for two or three years. They have a life expectancy of over 25 years in captivity
Okapi calves spend a lot of time lying up under cover, so the calf is not always visible - she tends to rest inside her stall. You may have better luck seeing her if you visit in quieter times of the day.
(Photo by Ben Birchall)