It’s a zebra! No! It’s an antelope! No! It’s a giraffe! No! It’s an okapi!
There are not a lot of animals as strange as the okapi, with its black and white stripes, 12 inch long purple-prehensile tongue and its red goo it secretes from it’s skin.
Deep in the Ituri Rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo lives the okapi. It is a very shy animal and the pygmy people of the Ituri often thought of it as a ghost or spirit that haunted the woods. The okapi is a solitary animal and blends in very well with the dark shadows of the rainforest.
The okapi secretes a reddish goo from its skin that actually acts as an antibacterial. Scientists are studying this to see if the type of antibacterial could be manufactured and used in medicine.
That okapi’s tongue is pretty spectacular, too. Its about 12 inches long and can be used to grab leaves out of trees, making it prehensile. It can also use that tongue to clean its ears, eyes, nostrils and even its asshole… yum.
The okapi is also the closest living relative to the giraffe. Now, the Ituri Rainforest is not full of okapi’s by any means. They are actually endangered. But many zoos, like my very own Dallas Zoo, have okapi breeding programs and their okapis are part of species survival plans. Dallas Zoo even sent an okapi to France to be part of a breeding program there, just this past month!