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Animal World: Our Co-inhabitants

Okapi-People: The Mysterious Residents of the Ituri Forest

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We okapi-people are a mysterious and elusive species. At first glance, you may, understandably, think we are related to zebra-folk because of the reddish-brown and cream stripes on our hindquarters.

Okapi- and giraffe-people are the only two members of the Giraffidae family. That is also the reason okapi-persons are called “forest giraffes,” “Congolese giraffes,” or “zebra giraffes.” Choosing to live far away from any human habitat, is why, although we are one of the oldest animal people on Earth, we were known only by our local human friends who used to call us the “African Unicorn.”

We both have cloven hooves, short, skin-covered horns, and long necks. Another feature we share is our super long (30-36 centimeters), prehensile, flexible, bluish tongues. And as funny as it might sound, we also use our tongue to wash our eyelids and clean our ears! We are the only mammals in the world that do this.

We are ruminants. Like the giraffe- and cow-people, we have four stomachs. The moms usually give birth to a single offspring at a time.

Unfortunately, we are now on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species, with only an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 individuals remaining in nature. In 1987, Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) was founded by John Lucas to guard our people. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife and around 5,000 okapi residents. We truly thank OCP for also working with local farmers to reduce slash-and-burn agriculture, which is the most significant cause of our habitat loss.

If you would like to rescue our homes, you can simply stop eating animal-people meat and go vegan. Did you know your old cell phones contain Coltan, which is a mineral mined within okapi habitat? Hence, to help us preserve our habitat, you could recycle your old phones. That would be so wonderful!
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