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On Sunday, June 2nd, okapi Mbuti gave birth to a calf after a pregnancy of approximately 15 months. Both mother and calf are doing well. The calf quickly stood up and is feeding well. Mbuti is an experienced mother and even a grandmother. This is her fourth calf. For the next few weeks, the young calf will remain in the stable. Okapis are ‘nest-stayers’; the mother leaves her young in a safe place and returns only to nurse. During the first weeks, okapi calves spend most of their time sleeping and drinking. A camera in the stable allowed us to capture the birth and the calf’s first steps.

Okapis are related to giraffes and are also known as forest giraffes. These shy animals are found only in the impenetrable forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they are threatened. The deforestation of the rainforest is rapidly shrinking their habitat. They are also hunted by locals for their meat and hide, and the region is politically unstable, with ongoing civil wars. Therefore, it is crucial for zoos to build a genetically healthy reserve population. Antwerp coordinates the population management program to conserve and protect these unique animals, working internationally with various zoos, including Diergaarde Blijdorp.

Blijdorp has supported the Okapi Conservation Project in the okapi’s native region for many years. This foundation ensures the protection of the reserve in the Ituri Forest, where the okapis live, and promotes sustainable agriculture. The local population is closely involved with the foundation.


Blijdorp has a long history with okapis. In 1957, Rotterdam received its first two okapis, and in 1960, the first calf was born. Today, Rotterdam’s bloodline is represented in the current okapi population in Europe and America.