Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 1162: A Giraffe's Cousin

If you thought I was going to waste an opportunity in my Environmental Science class to do an Endangered Species project on something other than an animal I learned about at Animal Kingdom, you'd be wrong.

Picking an animal wasn't hard! I just went through pictures from our past trips until I found an animal that really stuck out to me, and that's exactly what the Okapi did. Most people probably have no idea what an Okapi even is, but thanks to my numerous travels on Kilimanjaro Safaris I knew exactly what I was talking about in regards to the cousin of the giraffe. That's right, giraffe, not zebra!

The okapi lives in the Ituri Forest, a dense rainforest in central Africa. It's located on the northeastern edge of the Congo River Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with savanna in the North, highlands in the East, and lowland forest to both the South and West. Because of these drastically different climates, the population of the Okapi is kept relatively low naturally, even without a large number of predators. However, in recent years, mostly since 1995, the Okapi population has reduced by more than half due to ongoing fighting in the regions, which impacts the efforts to save the okapi. In addition, the population is poached, and deforestation and destruction had made an already limited habitat smaller.

There's a few other awesome facts about the Okapi I learned though, such as the fact that it was once referred to as the "African Unicorn" since, until 1901, many believed the creature was a myth due to its intense ability to hide in the surrounding forest. Also, the okapi's tongue is used for grooming, and is so long that it can reach its eyes and ears!

So next time you head on Kilimanjaro Safaris, keep these facts in mind, because now you too know a little bit more about the okapi!

Have a magical day!