Did you know today is World Okapi Day?! If you’ve ever taken a trip on Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, then chances are you’ve had the pleasure of seeing one of these amazing animals in person. Today, the Walt Disney World Resort celebrates Okapis by welcoming a newborn calf to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Born earlier this month on October 1, the (currently unnamed) calf weighed 54 pounds and was walking on his own within about one hour of his birth. His parents, Zelda and Mandazi, were selected to breed as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) a program set in place to create responsible breeding opportunities for threatened and endangered species by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums).
While the new calf will be adjusting to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge backstage for several months, guests will eventually be able to spot him out on the resort’s savanna. Before he meets the rest of the animals at the Lodge, Disney animal specialists will work to ensure that he bonds with his mother backstage and all of his important maturation milestones are being met.
Okapis are difficult to spot in the wild because of their reclusive nature–you may have heard your guide on Kilimanjaro Safaris refer to them as the “ghosts of the forest.” (They are so difficult to come across in the wild the entire species was not even discovered until 1901!) When you can spot them, okapis are typically found within the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today conservation specialists estimate that about 20,000 okapi remain in the wild, though their numbers are shrinking due to habitat loss from commercial ventures and poaching.
In addition to working with the SSP to produce more okapi through responsible breeding, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has a long-standing relationship with the Okapi Conservation Project, the group that created World Okapi Day as a way to bring about greater awareness for the okapi and their declining populations.
Learn more about okapis on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Animal Kingdom Lodge, or brush up on all of the animals at the Walt Disney World Resort before your visit at disneyanimals.com.