The almost mythical okapi – described as half-zebra and half giraffe is so rare that it has remained a secret since the turn of the 20th century and can only be found inhabiting in the rain forests of Democratic Republic of Congo; the area comparable to the size of Yellowstone Natural Park. It is the only living relative of the giraffe and prefers to live in rain forests.
The rare creatures are naturally shy and live solitary lives. While Europeans had heard stories about the animals, they were nearly impossible to find in the wild, and for years only the native dwellers in the Congo had actually ever spotted on – often referred to as the “African unicorn.”
The okapi is the size of a horse and can lick the back of its own neck with its 18-inch tongue. Its shiny coat feels like velvet and can twitch each ear independently.
And now, according to CNN, a succession of dictators and misrule has drastically decreased the Congo’s natural resources and the okapi population has fallen by 50 percent since 1995. Scientists estimate to only 10,000 left in the wild. Now the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is one of the most dangerous places to visit. In 1992, when the Okapi Wildlife Reserve was dedicated to keep it free of development to protect mining opportunities for the future, the okapi thrived. The vision was to make it a tourist spot where visitors could come and observe the solitary and near mythical animals.
Armed militia guard the area to prevent illegal gold and diamond mining as well as poachers. And to make matters worse, the country continues to fight an Ebola outbreak.
In the 1930s, the okapis were domesticated, but after a series of unrest, colonization and hostile governing, the 26 okapis wandered back into the forests and for years, elephants, pangolins and other animals enjoyed their lives without human intervention. During the 1950s, an okapi was born in captivity and less than 40 years later, the gene pool had greatly decreased.
Yesterday: Bleeding, wounded Yorkie rescued from the streets – more here.
More: Starving dogs, with embedded chains, finally safe – the story here.
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