|Geographical Range||Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (in Africa)|
|Habitat||Dense rain forest|
|Scientific Name||Okapia johnstoni|
|Conservation Status||Near threatened|
Although okapis have stripes like zebras, they are actually most closely related to giraffes. These large hoofed mammals were not known to science until 1901, probably because of their secretive lifestyle. They live a quiet life in the lush rainforest. Their velvety dark striped coats create an almost perfect camouflage in the low light of the forest understory. And their keen hearing helps them detect predators at a far distance. Okapis browse on a diverse diet of leafy vegetation.
Habitat destruction has been the greatest threat to okapis. In 1992, the Democratic Republic of the Congo set aside a portion of its Ituri Forest as a preserve for these and other threatened wildlife. But the species is still in trouble, and is among those animals that winds up victim to the illegal trade in "bushmeat".
Okapis (and other mammals) are being killed for their meat. In some cases, the hunters are poor people who need protein to survive. But more and more, the carcasses are being sold to cities, where bushmeat is bought as a "gourmet" food.
Conservation groups are working to solve the bushmeat crisis before it's too late. To learn more about what's being done to help okapis and other bushmeat victims, read about the work of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF).
What can you do to help okapis? You can help protect their habitat. Make sure that you, your family, and friends choose wisely when buying wood products. Don't buy items made from trees that were logged from okapis' habitat.