Recently, all the news at the Wild Animal Park’s okapi barn has been about our two-year-old prodigy, Zuri. While he has been a trailblazer and a great “spokes-okapi” for our training program (see Okapi Zuri Grows Up), he has some competition: an eight-month-old calf named Uche (oo-chay), whose name means “dawn” or “daybreak” (see A New Okapi!).
After an “interesting” few months, during which we all sported bruised shins (kicking being the first skill he mastered), he has come along beautifully with his training. Uche has been wearing a halter since he was a day old and now leads very well. He has started the first step in trailer training, which consists of following us into our bedding storage container. This provides an enclosed space with a wooden floor that’s not quite as small as an actual trailer. Uche follows us in with no objection and enjoys sniffing around in there. His favorite training reward is a good rubdown; he especially enjoys having the underside of his neck gently rubbed.
We are able to handle most of his body without objection, but still need to be careful with his lower legs, as he hasn’t completely lost his fondness for kicking! We are confident that with patience he will improve in this area and that eventually we will be able to work on his feet, a major objective of this training.
While Zuri was growing up, we kept careful training and behavioral records to track his progress. These have proven to be invaluable as we work with Uche; we are able to refer back to them to see what Zuri was doing at particular ages, and it’s been very interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two boys.
Uche is now weaned and is shedding the last of his fuzzy baby coat. He is well on his way to becoming a sleek, shiny young male like his role model, Zuri. I will keep everyone posted on his progress!
Marcia Redding is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park.