Un­cover the mys­tery be­hind these for­est gi­raffes

World of Animals - - Contents - Words Sanne de Boer

Feast your eyes on the mys­te­ri­ous okapi, as it might be the clos­est you’ll ever get to see­ing this strik­ing crea­ture. Not only does their unique rear-end pro­vide them with the per­fect cam­ou­flage, mim­ick­ing the light seep­ing through the jun­gle fo­liage, but they are also in­cred­i­bly rare. The okapi is only found among dense jun­gle forestry in a select area of the DR of Congo and has been driven to the edge of ex­tinc­tion by the threats to their habi­tat, as well as hunt­ing for bush­meat and the consequences of lo­cal war­fare.

De­spite re­cent ef­forts to pro­tect and cel­e­brate the okapi, like mak­ing it the na­tional an­i­mal of the DR of Congo, the population fell by more than 40 per cent be­tween 1995 and 2007. Due to their shy na­ture there is cur­rently no re­li­able es­ti­mate on their num­bers.

Even be­fore it was con­sid­ered en­dan­gered, the okapi has al­ways been ex­cep­tion­ally good at hide and seek; so good in fact that the strik­ing crea­ture was thought to be a lo­cal myth by the Western world un­til 1901. To colonis­ers, ru­mour of their ex­is­tence was based en­tirely on sto­ries told by lo­cal in­hab­i­tants, and with­out any doc­u­men­ta­tion or proof they might as well have been a fairy­tale. With their deep brown, al­most plum-coloured coat, pale faces, large eyes and striped be­hinds, it’s easy to see why they might have been seen as too fan­tas­ti­cal to be real.

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