A pair of endangered Okapi are settling into their new home as the latest addition to the family of animals at the award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
The distinctively-marked species, known as the ‘Forest Giraffe’, is on the IUCN red list of threatened species and two-year-olds Ruby and Nuru will play an important role in a global conservation effort.
Nicknamed ‘Zebra Giraffes’ because of their black and white striped legs, the Okapi arrived at the park earlier this week after a meticulously planned journey from their homes at the Wild Place Project in Bristol and Antwerp Zoo in Belgium.
The first travelled from Antwerp Zoo on Tuesday with a ferry trip from Calais to Dover before completing the journey to YWP. Ruby arrived two days later from Bristol.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled and excited for our visitors to meet these intriguing animals!” said Simon Marsh (Animal Collections Manager), at Branton, near Doncaster. “This is the first phase of the Okapi reserve here at YWP and this winter we will develop the second phase give Ruby and Nuru a large, wooded reserve near our wetlands. Being endangered in the wild and with 170 Okapis in captivity around the world, with just 14 in the UK, YWP plays an important part of the conservation effort to keep an insurance population. We are one of only 4 places in the UK where you can see these rare and special animals”.
Okapi, a close relative of the giraffe, are herbivores originating from the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Growing to almost five-foot-tall at the shoulder with an average body length of eight feet, they can weight up to 350 kilograms and live up to 30 years.
“They have long legs, long necks and a very long tongue just like giraffes, but with their chocolate to reddish brown coat, white legs and stripy rear they look very different indeed!” continued Britt Jensen (Hoof Stock Team Leader). “The arrival of these truly stunning animals marks a really important day for YWP as we now have a brand-new species to add to our extensive collection of over 400 animals. We hope that Nuru and Ruby get on well and they continue the conservation programme by having the first Okapi calf born at YWP”. Britt add “This may take some time though as their gestation period is about 15 months!”
Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation supports the Okapi Conservation Project which runs anti-poaching patrols, research and community projects to help protect them in the wild. Okapi numbers are threatened due to logging, illegal mining and the hunting for their meat and skins in their native Africa Rainforest.
Numbers are thought to have declined from around 250,00 since they were first discovered in 1901 to a current total of 10,000.
“Due to the dense forest they inhabit, monitoring Okapi is extremely difficult and they are rarely seen. Dung piles are counted as an estimate of numbers.” said YWPF Trustee Cheryl Williams.
“We are very proud to be part of a conservation programme, helping save these amazing animals from extinction. The Congo is the world’s second largest rainforest and this project allows us to conserve thousands of other at-risk species that live there.”
The YWP Foundation supports conservation and welfare projects all around the world from the critically endangered Amur leopard in Russia, the black rhino in East Africa to the lemurs of Madagascar.
YWP, which opened in 2009, allows visitors to get up close to some of the world’s most endangered and beautiful animals, including African lions, giant otters and polar bears, in a breath-taking walkthrough adventure.
The new arrivals will be visible to the public at short intervals over the coming days. Keep up to date on our social media channels to see the latest news and photos of Ruby and Nuri!
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