Keepers Care for Baby Okapi at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Okapis Ayana and JacksonA two-week-old okapi calf is walking and getting comfortable exploring his barn at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The male calf, named Jackson, was born on July 6. He is staying close to his mother, Ayana, and has even begun to mimic some of her behaviors. While the young calf’s primary source of nutrition is from nursing, Jackson is curious about plant browse and has been mimicking Ayana and mouthing at browse as she forages.

Animal care staff monitors the young calf’s weight daily on a large scale that Jackson walks onto with guidance from a keeper. This part of his training will help ensure he has a strong, trusting bond with animal care staff. Weighing 57 pounds at birth, Jackson is now 80 pounds, a sign that he is getting enough nutrition from his mother.

While Jackson spends most of his day nursing and exploring the okapi barn with his mother, he has bursts of excitement that animal care staff says is common for a young calf.

The okapi is an elusive animal and scientists did not know of the species until the early 20th century. They live in the dense, tropical mountain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Though they look similar to a zebra, they are the closest living relative to the giraffe. A noticeable okapi characteristic is their large ears, which allow them to hear low-frequency sounds below the audible range for humans.

To honor those who devote their lives to animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along with zoos nationwide, are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week July 20 through 26. There are more than 6,000 zoo keepers across the U.S. who care for animals in fields that involve medical care, training, research, enrichment and education. San Diego Zoo Global salutes the animal care professionals who contribute to wildlife care and help increase public awareness about the need to preserve habitats and the creatures that inhabit them.

Photo taken on July 22, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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