Zoology & Botany


Prepare a picture of/book about/a toy okapi in advance, as well as a sample of okapi skin

Say: Look at this animal. (Show a picture of a okapi.) This is a mammal.

Remember, to be classified as a mammal, an animal should have hair or fur, mammary glands (mammal mothers nurse their young with milk), lungs and need air to breathe. Mammals that live on land are warm blooded, have 4 legs and ears that stick out.

( Point to the Okapi) Say: The okapi is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal that bears striped markings reminiscent of zebras, but it is most closely related to the giraffe. The okapi and the giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae. Okapi´s neck is relatively long in comparison to that of other ruminants; its ears are large and flexible. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Okapi´s cheeks, throat, and chest are whitish-gray or tan. Male okapis have hair-covered horns. Females may be slightly red in color and lack horns. Both males and females have interdigital glands on the front and hind feet. The most giraffe-like feature of the okapi is the long black tongue which is used for plucking buds, leaves, and branches from trees and shrubs. Both giraffe and okapi simultaneously step with the front and hind leg on the same side of the body rather than moving alternate legs on either side like other ungulates. .

Go back to the picture of the okapi. Say: let’s find okapi’s body parts. This is its head, eyes, nose, mouth, body, legs: 1,2,3,4; this is its tail. The unique color pattern of the okapi allows it to disappear into the background of dense vegetation and rotting leaves where it lives. Okapis are living things and need energy to survive.

The Okapi is a herbivorous animal meaning that it survives on a diet that is only comprised of plants. They eat leaves, shoots and twigs that are drawn into their mouths using their long prehensile tongue along with fruits, berries and other plant parts. After a gestation period that can last for up to 16 months, the female Okapi retreats into the dense vegetation where she gives birth to a single calf. Like many hoofed-herbivores, the Okapi calf is usually able to stand within half an hour when mother and baby then begin starting to look for a good nest spot. They remain in their nest deep in the undergrowth for the majority of the next two months which not only helps the calf to develop more rapidly but also gives it vital protection from hungry predators. The young Okapi do not reach their full adult size until they are roughly three years old. They are generally weaned at around 6 months old but may continue to suckle from their mother for more than a year.

The Okapi is found in the dense tropical rainforests of north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo generally at an altitude that can vary between 500 and 1,000 meters. We need to take care of Okapis and treat them with respect because they are living things just like us, people.

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