A 'conservation landmark': Rare okapi calf born at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Okapis are on the IUCN red list of threatened species. Credit: Yorkshire Wildlife Park

A rare and endangered okapi calf has been born at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Two-month-old Mzimu - which means ghost or spirit in Swahili, due to his birth just before Halloween - has been hailed a "major conservation landmark" after becoming the first okapi calf to be successfully bred at the park.

He's also one of only four okapis to be born in Europe this year.

For now, he's being kept indoors by his mum Ruby.

  • Mum Ruby chooses her calf's name

What is an okapi?

The okapi, with its distinctive markings and often known as the forest giraffe, is under severe threat from poachers, logging, illegal mining and unrest in their native areas of the north eastern rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Their numbers have plummeted from 250,000 in 1901 to around 10,000 today. 

They can grow to almost five-foot-tall at the shoulder with an average body length of eight feet, weigh up to 350 kilograms and can live to 30 years. 

During the vulnerable first few months of a calf’s life, the mother Okapi will hide her youngster in a nest or undergrowth in the wild.

The 175 -acre park, at Auckley, near Doncaster, is one of only four zoos or wildlife parks in the UK where the traditionally shy and reclusive animals can be seen.

“We are delighted to see Mzimu doing so well as okapis are so endangered,“ said Kyrie Birkett from the park.

“He is the first calf for Ruby so we are particularly delighted that she is being such an attentive mother and fingers crossed that he continues to develop well."