Yorkshire Wildlife Park celebrates conservation landmark after birth of rare okapi

The two-month-old endangered okapi calf is a welcomed addition to the park and the species’ population.

Okapi calves are very vulnerable in their first few months but little Mzimu is healthy and being kept indoors by his protective mum Ruby.

His progress so far has given a Christmas boost to the animal team at the 175-acre park at Auckley, near Doncaster.

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Rare baby okapi, named Mzimu, was born on October 30 2021.

Okapis are on the IUCN red list of threatened species and Mzimu’s birth, on October 30, was the first okapi calf successfully bred at the park as part of a conservation programme.

It is believed that there have been only four successful Okapi births in Europe during 2021.

Ruby and dad Nuru arrived at the park in 2018 and are important members of the European Endangered Species Programme, and the birth of Mzimu was hailed as a major advance for the species.

Nuru has now moved to Marwell as part of the breeding programme as his genes are so important to the programme.

Mzimu and his mother Ruby at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

The okapi, with its distinctive markings and often known as the forest giraffe, is under severe threat from poachers, logging, illegal mining and unrest in their native areas of the north eastern rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Their numbers have plummeted from 250,000 in 1901 to around 10,000 today.

They can grow to almost five-foot-tall at the shoulder with an average body length of eight feet, weigh up to 350 kilograms and can live to 30 years.

Kyrie Birkett, deputy team leader, said: “We are delighted to see Mzimu doing so well as okapis are so endangered.

Ranger Kyrie Birkett and baby Mzimu.

“He is named Mzimu, which means ghost or spirit in Swahili because he was born a few hours before Halloween.

“He is the first calf for Ruby so we are particularly delighted that she is being such an attentive mother and fingers crossed that he continues to develop well.

“They are both indoors at the moment and he won’t venture out into the reserve just yet."

The Park is open every day except Christmas Day.