Baby okapi explores new habitat at San Diego Zoo Safari Park


A four-week-old male okapi calf explored his outdoor habitat for the first time
today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. (Photo taken on Feb. 13, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.)

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SAN DIEGO — A 4-week-old okapi calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park checked out his forested habitat for the first time Friday, along with his mother.

Named Amaranta, the calf has spent his time until now in the okapi barn and outside yard. Park staff let him and his mother go into the habitat when he showed signs of curiosity.

The calf, born Jan. 18, cautiously explored and walked around the shady habitat, and watched as his mother ate hay and acacia that keepers had placed in feeders around the exhibit.

“I felt he did great for his first time,” said Lissa McCaffree, senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“It can be very intimidating coming out here into such a large exhibit with the trees and other animals,” McCaffree said. “He was a little nervous at first but quickly calmed down and started to explore and run around with his mom.”

The calf, which now weighs around 100 pounds, was born to an experienced mother, Makini, and first-time father, Amare.

Keepers say Makini is very attentive and enjoys grooming her calf and licking his ears.

Amaranta is very active and friendly toward people, even seeking out attention from his keepers, according to park staff. The keepers work closely with the okapis to ensure they have a strong, trusting bond with their keepers.

The okapi calf — the 41st born at the park — and his mother will be on exhibit Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Okapis are an elusive animal and the species was unknown to science until the early 20th century. They live in the dense, tropical mountain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Though they look similar to a zebra, they are the closest living relative to the giraffe. A noticeable okapi characteristic is their large ears, which allow them to hear low-frequency sounds below the audible range for humans.

Okapis are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because of deforestation.

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