An adorable baby okapi was just born at London Zoo—exciting news for the sparse exotic giraffe relative. And zookeepers are enthralled with the brand-new calf.
Mom Oni the okapi gave birth to a healthy baby girl, named Ede, on Sept. 21 after a 16-month pregnancy, according to a press release from London Zoo.
Ede was Oni’s second time giving birth. The calf was fathered by London Zoo's male okapi, Mbuti.
After noticing that Oni was in labor, devoted zookeepers began keeping a watchful eye on the expectant mom via CCTV. Upon spotting tiny hooves and stripy legs emerging from the mom, staff rejoiced after the 12-hour vigil.
“The wide-eyed calf took its first wobbly steps minutes later and was tottering around confidently soon after,” a zoo press release stated.
London Zoo okapi keeper Gemma Metcalf said, “Like all okapis, Oni had a long pregnancy—close to 16 months—so we’ve been excitedly waiting for Ede for a long time."
“Her lockdown pregnancy posed some logistical challenges for our team,” Metcalf adds, “but despite the Zoo being closed we remained by her side to make sure she had the highest standard of care throughout her third trimester—we’re delighted that both mother and baby are now doing so well.”
Okapis are only found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they are considered Endangered, according to the IUCN, because of threats of hunting and habitat loss. The mammal is the last remaining relative of the giraffe. Ede’s birth is significant in the global breeding program for the species, the zoo says.
And the adorable new pair, together with their dark, satiny coats and uniquely striped leg patterns, have also stirred up excitement locally, and have recently made the airwaves on the UK’s own ITV.
“Oni has always been a star in our eyes, but while she’s currently shining on-screen she’s also excelling off-screen—at being a brilliant mom,” said Metcalf.
“Ede is already a feisty young calf and has been bouncing happily around the stables, but Oni is keeping her in their cozy indoor dens until she feels Ede is ready to explore their lush outdoor paddocks—we can’t wait for our visitors to see the newest addition to the zoo family.”
The London Zoo has been under immense financial pressure over the last few months due to its closure during the pandemic lockdown. Meanwhile, it continues providing the highest level of care for all its animals. Although its doors opened on June 15, the number of visitors is still limited.
Hopefully, Ede will encourage locals and tourists to flock to buy tickets and pay her and her adoring mother, Oni, a visit.