From across the forests and savannas, mountains, oceans, and skies of the world, welcome to a celebration of the animals that you know and love – it’s the …

It’s the tallest land mammal in the world.  You know it by its spots and long neck …

Give it up for the GIRAFFE!

Giraffes in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Image: Megan Strauss

Meanwhile, across town …

PSSST. Hey, over here. It’s great that we celebrate the animals that we know and love, but they aren’t the only animals in the world.

Many of the popular animals have unfamous cousins that are just as cool as they are. Come meet these cousins at the …

Giraffes are fabulous, but meet their cousin, the OKAPI:

Okapi. Image: Rhett A. Butler

Why is the okapi fabulous, too?

Okapis are much smaller than giraffes, being only 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, rather than up to 18 feet (5.5 m) tall.  Their height allows them to glide through thick forests that a giraffe would get tangled up in.  

They have zebra-like stripes on their legs rather than spots. These patterns help break up light patterns in the forest and make them invisible to potential predators like leopards or humans.

Okapis have many features in common with giraffes. They eat leaves. They have super-long tongues for stripping the leaves off the trees. They also use their tongues to clean their ears! Male okapis have ossicones (bony horns) on their head. Both male and female giraffes have ossicones, too.  

Why is the okapi not as famous as the giraffe?

Okapis live in remote rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa that were unexplored by scientists until the early 20th century. The okapi was one of the last large mammals described by scientists. Of course, the Indigenous peoples who share the forests okapis live in knew that okapis were there before outside scientists came to study these forests. 

Okapis are still very hard to see in their forest homes. Scientists that study them hardly ever see them.

By David Brown