What's new at Basel Zoo

On 30 October, an okapi was born at Basel Zoo. These animals are extremely rare both in the wild and in zoos, making it all the more exciting that Quinta is the second okapi to be born this year.

Quinta weighed almost 30 kilogrammes and was able to stand less than 20 minutes after she was born. Shortly afterwards, the healthy and strong female calf suckled from her mother Mchawi (8). Another okapi was born in Basel Zoo earlier this year on 18 February. Qenco, the son of Ebony (8), also lives in the antelope house and already weighs over 150 kilogrammes. The last time that two okapis were born in the one year at Basel Zoo was in 2000.

The birth of an okapi in a zoo is a rare occurrence. Only 76 animals live in the 27 zoos across Europe that house okapis and have a European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for them. Okapis are also extremely rare in the wild: they are named as endangered on the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List (very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future) and estimates indicate that there are now only 10,000 okapis left worldwide.

Well hidden

In the first few weeks, visitors will rarely catch a glimpse of the new calf. This is due to a special kind of behaviour that we are familiar with from our local deer and other ungulates, but also hares. Their young are also known as “hiders” as they lie down in a hiding place and wait for their mother. This behaviour and the fact that their scent glands are not yet active protects them against predators.

Thanks to a camera installed above the hiding place, visitors can still get a look at the young calf. In the early days, she will spend a lot of time sleeping and only stir when her mother comes by to suckle her. The screen for observing the calf can be found in the Gamgoas house when you look into the termite breeding station. The antelope house is closed from 12 noon to 2 p.m. To avoid disturbing the mother and calf, we ask that you keep noise to a minimum when in the house.

Okapis are also known as “forest giraffes” and are closely related to giraffes. Only the male okapis have the horns typically seen on a giraffe’s head. Both species have very long, movable tongues.

Basel Zoo supports an okapi conservation project

The survival of the okapi, which was only discovered in 1901, is linked to the future of the rainforest in its natural habitat. Okapis can primarily be found in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve contained within this. For decades, civil wars, streams of refugees and marauding soldiers have posed a threat to the number of okapi and their habitat.

Basel Zoo has supported the “Okapi Conservation Project” for over 30 years. This teaches gamekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo about wildlife conservation and supports locals by providing direct aid such as medical care, education and the development of sustainable agricultural models. The aim is to give the people there better long-term prospects and to protect the environment in a sustainable manner. Cameras have been installed to gain a better understanding of the animals’ behaviour in their natural habitat. The initial videos offer a clear picture of how well the striped animals can hide in the forest.