Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
The elusive okapi may be a rare sight in the wild, but you can spy them every day at Walt Disney World Resort.
Okapis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Guests can view okapis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park while trekking along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and while on safari with the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction. These gentle creatures can also be seen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or Guests may get an up-close look at the okapis by experiencing Sense of Africa, a program offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Okapis in the Wild
Okapis (pronounced Oh-COP-ees) are endemic to one place and one place only—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which makes up part of the Congo Rainforest in central Africa. The lowland region is characterized by its high rainfall and dense tropical vegetation.
Threats to Okapis
The okapi is currently listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since 2005, the okapi population has declined by 50%, down to an estimated 20,000 animals in the wild. Threats facing okapis are illegal logging, mining and poaching in protected forests. However, civil unrest, which makes effective conservation work difficult, is widely considered to be the single most contributing factor behind the animal’s decline.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of okapis and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for these incredible creatures—and how you can help!
“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney
Illegal mining and logging are shrinking the Congo Rainforest, and with it, the okapi domain too.
Rich in Diversity and Resources
Okapis live in rainforests rich in biodiversity and natural resources. Some of these natural resources include gold, diamond and timber. Coltan, a mineral used in small electronics, is also found here. As the selling prices of these resources rise, so too does the mining and logging to meet the growing demand. Sadly, this increased activity threatens to destroy okapi habitats.
One of the okapi’s most striking features is the zebra-like markings found on its rump and legs. However, an okapi’s stripes can sometimes attract unwanted attention. Poachers target okapis for their velvety coat as well as their meat, often using snares to capture these gentle creatures.
Disney Is Helping Okapis in the Wild
Since it began in 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has contributed more than $40 million dollars to support conservation programs in 115 countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conditions are rough for okapis, conservationists and the people who live there. By finding innovative and integrative solutions that encourage locals to contribute to okapi conservation and discourage illegal activities that harm okapi habitats, the Disney Conservation Fund is working to inspire the next generation of conservation heroes.
It Takes a Village
Illegal mining and poaching are very common in okapi habitats, as these activities provide the local people with lucrative ways to support themselves. In order to provide an alternative livelihood, the Disney Conservation Fund supports a program that works with farmers and women’s groups to create other income options, increase overall community welfare and discourage activities that can harm okapis and their habitat.
Animal care experts bring the magic of the African rainforest to life by creating exhibits and diets based on the natural history, adaptations and habits of okapis.
Ghosts of the Forest
Okapis are shy and reclusive animals. Combined with their amazing camouflage, it’s no wonder they are nicknamed the “ghosts of the forests.” Our okapi habitats include many trees and brush to allow the okapis natural opportunities to rest, hide and explore—just as they do in the wild. With the exception of mothers with their calves, they are solitary animals, which is why you will typically see our okapis grazing alone.
On the Rise
Okapi numbers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are on the rise. While okapi populations are currently dwindling in the wild, we have had several okapi calves born at Walt Disney World Resort and continue to contribute to the okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Veterinary Care and Animal Training
Through training and positive rewards such as a tasty treat, our okapis learn to participate in their own health care. Following a verbal cue or hand signal, they will present different body parts for a visual exam. All training is accomplished through protective barriers to ensure the safety of both animals and people.
Okapis were virtually unknown to the Western world until 1901—and they’ve been amazing us ever since!
It Runs in the Family
Don’t let the stripes fool you. The okapi is related to the giraffe, not the zebra. While there is quite the height difference, both species sport bony protrusions on top of their heads called ossicones and use their strong prehensile tongues to peel leaves off branches.
Now You See Me…
With such snazzy stripes, you might think that the okapi would stand out in the forest. Actually, the black and white patterning on their legs and rump acts as camouflage. The horizontal stripes mimic the pattern of sunlight filtering through the dense forest canopy and break up the okapi’s silhouette. This one-of-a-kind design helps okapis vanish into the underbrush without a trace. Talk about a disappearing act!
Hide and Seek
Out of sight, but definitely not out of mind! A mother okapi will hide her newborn calf in the forest undergrowth to keep it safe from predators while she is out looking for food. She will wait up to 8 hours before returning to make sure she does not reveal the location of her baby. Another amazing adaptation that keeps okapis safe is that newborn okapis will not defecate or urinate for the first 30 days or so of their life in order to mask their smell from predators.
An Impressive Salad
Leaves, roots, buds, grasses, ferns, fungi—the list goes on. Okapis are herbivores that eat more than 100 different species of plants.
Smell You Later
Okapis, except for a mother with its calf, usually live alone and tend to make very little noise. But even though they may not be able to see or hear each other, okapis remain in constant communication. How? They use their noses! Okapis have special scent glands on their feet that leave a smelly trail behind them as they walk through the forest. Okapis can smell the trails left behind by other okapis and mark their territory using their own distinctive smell.
Earn your stripes by doing your part to protect okapis and the forests they call home!
Reduce Waste and Upgrade Your Recycling
Don’t toss your old electronics after your next upgrade. Mining for coltan, a mineral used in electronic devices such as mobile phones, contributes to the destruction of okapi habitats. Happily, coltan is recyclable. When you recycle your old electronics, you help decrease the demand for additional coltan.
Use Forest-Friendly Products
Look for eco-friendly options the next time you buy school supplies. Purchasing notebooks, folders and pencils that are made of recycled materials can help reduce deforestation.
Snare art is made from snares that have been removed from the forest by anti-poaching units. Local artisans transform these snares into intricate wire sculptures that they sell to support wildlife conservation and their local community. The next time you are traveling, look for souvenirs that benefit the environment or support local conservation efforts.
Protect Nature and Treat Yourself
You can eat chocolate to protect okapis and the rainforest! Look for products such as chocolate and coffee that are sustainably grown or fair trade. Not only do you get to treat yourself to a tasty snack – you’re protecting the forests at the same time! It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
Visit the Websites Below
The Walt Disney Company is committed to using resources wisely and protecting the planet. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for our planet. Explore the websites below and learn how we are making the world a better place—and the many creative ways you can help make a real difference, too!
“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us… If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come.” – Walt Disney