Bronx, NY June 27, 2009 - From the back, she looks like a zebra; in the middle, she looks like a donkey; and up front, her face resembles her closest relative - the giraffe.

The okapi calf is called Mbaya. She lives with her mother, Kweli, in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Okapi Jungle and Ituri Field Camp in the Congo Gorilla Forest. The okapi are an integral part of this exhibit celebrating its ten-year anniversary.

Mbaya was born this spring, weighing 65 pounds. She is the fourth calf born to her mother.

"We are pleased that our okapi breeding program here at the Bronx Zoo has so been successful," said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and Senior Vice President of WCS’s Living Institutions. “Okapi are incredibly shy creatures. We are pleased to give our visitors this rare, close-up glimpse of this amazing animal.”

Europeans first encountered the okapi around 1900, and the species was officially "recognized" in 1902. In 1937, the Bronx Zoo acquired the first okapi in North America.

In the wild, okapi are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa where they live in heavily forested areas. The okapi is also known as the forest giraffe.

In the wild, they are rarely seen by humans, but are threatened by illegal hunting. The Wildlife Conservation Society helped establish the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1992.  Within the reserve, WCS established a conservation research and training center for international and Congolese scientists to bring new methods and expertise to the discovery of the little-known biodiversity of those wilderness areas.  Last year, WCS discovered okapi in Virunga National Park, where these elusive animals had not been seen in more than 50 years.

Fun Facts

  • The okapi's tongue is so long it can reach to clean its own eyelids and ears.
  • It is the only living relative of the giraffe.

 WCS in the Field

To learn more about WCS conservation efforts in Africa and around the world, visit

The Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays through November 2, 2009.  Adult admission is $15, children (3-12 years old) $11, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $13. Parking is $12 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit or call 718-367-1010.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.    

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to