New Orleans,
16:12 PM

Audubon's Okapi Mom Selects Name for New Calf

(New Orleans) Selecting the perfect name for a newborn often takes a little time and consideration for humans and animals alike. At Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, first-time okapi mom Asili has made her wishes known at the official Naming Day for the first okapi calf born at the westbank center.

Mom Asili was given three choices for the name of her calf by her keepers. Each option was written on a box containing some tasty leaves for her to eat. After carefully reviewing all the names, Asili decided her little one is named Kaya.

The birth of the unique calf is critical to the survival of the species.  Okapi are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and is part of Audubon's participation in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for okapi overseen by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Audubon has been a leader and participant in the okapi SSP since 2017.

Mom Asili was pregnant with Kaya for nearly 15-months—which is standard for this species. Okapi are considered one of the world’s oldest mammals and in the wild are only found in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite looking like a cross between a deer and a zebra, okapi are the giraffe's only living relative and are known as the "forest giraffe."

Their numbers in the wild are extremely threatened due to illegal hunting, mining, human encroachment, and loss of their habitat due to deforestation. Okapi are shy, elusive, and typically solitary animals. 

Scientists say there is no accurate accounting of okapi in the wild, but the estimates are grim. The number of okapi in the wild are believed to have dropped by 50% in the past twenty years, making this birth at Audubon extremely important. 

This first okapi birth follows a long line of significant advances, accomplishments, and occurrences at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center since it opened in 1993 including successful work with whooping cranes, African wildcats, Mississippi sandhill cranes, giraffe, clouded leopards, Mexican grey wolves, red wolves, bongo antelope, and eland.

Okapi Calf Naming Day Video 2022