It’s a girl! Rare okapi calf born at Audubon Institute’s breeding center

Years of work pays off in a bouncing baby female
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 1:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - After a 15-month-long pregnancy, an okapi has given birth to a female calf at the Audubon Species Survival Center in Algiers.

The mother, Asili, and the calf are doing well, according to keepers.

Okapi, native to deep forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are considered highly endangered and the birth is rare in the zoo world.

“Okapi breeding is rare and we’re very excited to have our first calf,” said Michelle Hatwood, General Curator. “It’s doing really well.”

Okapi babies have a high mortality rate, in the 25 percent range, according to Hatwood. “So to have a healthy, surviving calf and we have a female, which is also a big deal because she’s going to have babies one day, we’re just elated.”

There were some tense moments in the hours that followed the birth on September 24.

Normally, a calf can stand within 30 minutes and begin nursing in 15 to 30 minutes.

The calf struggled to get to its feet and the Asili had trouble feeding it during the first couple day.s

“With first-time moms, you never know how it’s going to go,” said Jennifer Cain, the primary okapi keeper.

Cain said staff kept a close eye on the pair, giving them an opportunity to do what came naturally before deciding to bottle feed temporarily.

“After a few hours of the calf struggling, we knew we had to separate mom in order to give the calf some assistance,” Cain said.

By the end of the second day, the calf was nursing.

Asili and the other okapis at the Species Survival Center are part of a cooperative effort between Audubon and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to breed captive animals, including some endangered species.

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