Dallas zoo introduces rare okapi this weekend

Back in August, the Dallas Zoo’s population grew by one with the addition of another rare okapi, the 36th such calf born since officials joined a program to swell its ranks 50 years ago.

by MATT GOODMAN / WFAA

DALLAS –– Back in August, the Dallas Zoo’s population grew by one with the addition of another rare okapi, the 36th such calf born since officials joined a program to swell its ranks 50 years ago. 

On Saturday, the mammal sometimes referred to as the “African unicorn” will make its debut into the zoo’s okapi habitat. While an okapi resembles a zebra, a zoo spokesman says they most closely resemble giraffes. 

They have heads with large ears and long tongues that help them wrangle leaves from trees.  

“These animals have irresistible charm and behave unlike any other mammal,” said Megan Lumpkin, the Dallas Zoo’s lead keeper for the okapi, in a prepared statement. “They communicate using infrasound, a low-frequency sound undetectable to humans. It is critically important that they be protected.” 

In 1982, the zoo notes that U.S. zoological centers had just 16 okapi total. That number has ballooned to nearly 100, six of which call the Dallas Zoo home. The newest calf, named Almasi (‘diamond’ in Swahili), is the second born to her mother. She had a 14-month gestation period and has put on nearly 150 pounds since her birth on Aug. 14. 

She weighed 47 pounds at birth and now weighs 190. Okapi often grow taller than five feet and weigh more than 700 pounds. Despite their popularity –– the zoo notes that okapi are featured on the Congo’s 1,000-franc note –– their ranks are being sliced due to the destruction of the rain forests they call home. 

As part of the Okapi Species Survival Plan, “the Dallas Zoo supports conservation efforts to protect wild okapi, while striving to ensure a future for them by maintaining a healthy and genetically sound gene pool,” according to a release. 

Those who wish to see Almasi up close can do so from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. She’ll be wandering the Wilds of Africa area.

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