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Meet Almasi, A Sweet Baby Okapi, At The Dallas Zoo

The baby boom at the Dallas Zoo continues, thanks to a new okapi.

Almasi, or “diamond” in Swahili, was born Aug. 14 after a 14-month gestation. The zoo announced the news today. She weighed 47 pounds at birth, and is now up to 190 pounds.

The okapi, pronounced oh-KOP-ee, is unique and mysterious. The zoo says the animal is so elusive that it’s been called the “African unicorn.”

So, what’s an okapi? It’s kind of like a zebra, kind of like a giraffe. The okapi’s black-and-white striped legs and horselike bodies resemble a zebra, but it’s most closely related to giraffes. Like giraffes, their heads have large ears that give them keen hearing and their long tongues let them strip leaves and shoots from trees, the zoo says.

Almasi will debut in the okapi habitat for the first time on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For now, watch Almasi use her legs!:

When fully grown, she’ll stand more than 5 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 700 pounds.

The Dallas Zoo has a long history of caring for the okapi. Almasi becomes the 36th calf born at the zoo.

“These animals have irresistible charm and behave unlike any other mammal,” Megan Lumpkin, the Dallas Zoo’s lead keeper for the okapi, said in a news release. “They communicate using infrasound, a low-frequency sound undetectable to humans. It is critically important that they be protected.”

Almasi is the second calf born to her mother, Desi. The zoo reports that Desi is being a good mommy to Almasi.

Did you know?:

  • Okapi in the wild are found exclusively in the Ituri rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • They are difficult to see in the rain forest because of their camouflage.

  • Because they’re very elusive and the Congo rain forest is so rugged, little is known about their behavior in the wild.

  • Researchers have found that their numbers are declining rapidly due to destruction of their rain forest home, despite their popularity in the African country.

  • Okapi are featured on the Congo’s 1,000-franc note.

An animal baby boom helped bring a record 915,000 visitors to the zoo during the past fiscal year. The births include a rare ocelot kitten, two new male gorillas, as well as cheetah cubs Winspear and Kamau, and their companion Labrador puppy, Amani.

Watch Winspear and Kamau in action:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.