odd animal profile: okapi

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!

5 thoughts on “odd animal profile: okapi”

  1. I love the Okapi! I actually had to have a very bizarre and frustrating conversation with a 4th grade science teacher who basically called my daughter a liar (she used the term “imaginative”) because my daughter went to school talking about the Okapi (we had just seen one at a zoo, even had the stuffed animal we got at the gift shop). When my daughter wouldn’t back down from claiming their existence was real, I had to meet with the teacher (the teacher sent a note home). An amazing testament to our school system. LOL

    1. Wow!! That’s really disheartening, but I can tell you from my years working in zoos, not surprising. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who believed that tigers are females and lions are males which is why they aren’t kept together in captivity…

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