The elusive okapi


The elusive okapi

You see the first image of okapi ( Okapia johnstoni ), By which the scientific world learned about this animal. It was published by in 1901 in the works of 3-3-3331. Zoological Society of London . The drawing was done by an African researcher, botanist, linguist, artist, and British colonial administrator (see Administrator of the government ) Sir Harry Johnston ( Harry Johnston ), In whose honor okapi got its specific name. Here is lithography made by English illustrator Pierre-Jacques Smith ( Pierre Jacques Smit ) based on a drawing by Harry Johnston.

In 1887 the explorer and traveler Henry Morton Stanley sent to the Western world the first reports of a certain animal, similar to a donkey or a horse, from the forests of the Congo (now 3-3-3347. Democratic Republic of the Congo 3-3-33336.). Harry Johnston is so was hit by news of the "forest horse" that he decided at all costs to find her. In 1899 he was sent by a special commissioner in 3-3-3351. Uganda , and in 1901 began to search for a “horse” in the forests on the western bank of the river 3-3-3353. Semliki , on the border of Uganda and Congo (Uganda was then a colony of Great Britain, and Congo - Belgium). Live okapi - as the locals called it “horse” - he could not meet, only the alleged traces. But Johnston is I could get a few pieces of skin from local residents, which he immediately sent to London. Later, he was more fortunate: the Belgian officers obtained for him a fresh skin of okapi and a skull. Johnston found out the details of the appearance of the animal from the locals accompanying him. Based on available materials, he made a fairly accurate drawing.

Johnston sent a letter with a picture to the British zoologist Philip Slater who described the animal as Equus johnstony ("Johnston's horse"). When in 1901 a skin and two okapi skulls arrived in London, it became clear that this was not a horse, but a relative of a giraffe. Johnston himself in one of the letters called the animal elladoterium ( Helladotherium ) Is a genus of extinct animals of the family giraffe .


The elusive okapi

Skull of okapi ( On the left ) And giraffe ( On the right ) In Disney Animal Kingdom park ( Disney's Animal Kingdom ) In Florida , USA. Photo from zoochat.com


Okapi with giraffes have similar proportions of the body and legs, both have ossicons (bone horns) on the head and a very long tongue with which animals grab leaves from trees and send them into their mouths. According to modern concepts, okapi are the closest living relatives of giraffes, the line of giraffes and okapi 3-3-3105. dispersed. about 11.5 million years ago.


The elusive okapi

Okapi and giraffe: similarities and differences. Information board at Disney Animal Kingdom Park. Photo from the site commons.wikimedia.org


Locals seemed to hunt okapi long before the Europeans found out about them. They called the animal "atti," or "okapi." But some researchers have suggest that okapi outside of Africa could have known in the 5th – 6th centuries BC: on the facade of the huge columned hall Apadana in Ancient Persian the city of Persepole (now Iran) is an image resembling okapi.


The elusive okapi

The relief on the facade is Apadans in Persepole (Iran), 520–485 BC e., a gift from the Ethiopians Achaemenides . Presumably, this is okapi (this is indicated by the long neck and ossicons). On the other hand, leg color patterns are not transmitted and the size of the animal is too small. Left - from the site oi.uchicago.edu , right - from the site livius.org


In 1909 the German-American taxidermist Herbert Lang ( Herbert Lang ) And American ornithologist James Chapin went on a five-year expedition to the Congo, hoping to get samples for 3-3-3185. American Museum of Natural History in New York and even catch a live okapi for The Bronx Zoo (USA). But during the day, okapi hide in almost impassable, dense and swampy thickets, going to more open and dry parts of the forest in search of food only at night. In addition, okapi has good hearing, and, having heard the hunters, they immediately hide in the forest. Therefore, white people again failed to meet the living okapi. It was only possible to catch animals in various traps in order to get the skin and skeleton.


The elusive okapi

Okapi male killed by a hunter. The animal was raised its head to look alive. Photo from the site diglib1.amnh.org October 151915


But the locals are still caught for scientists, a one-week-old okapi calf, though he soon died due to a lack of milk (the expedition was poor in food, and the calf was fed with rice flour mixed in water).


The elusive okapi

A week old okapi calf caught for Herbert Lang by the son of the leader of a local tribe. Photo from the site diglib1.amnh.org


It was not possible to bring live okapi, but the researchers brought several skins to New York. The stuffed animals made of them can still be seen at the American Museum of Natural History at 3-3-33231. diorama showing okapi habitat.


The elusive okapi

Diorama showing okapi in a natural habitat, American Museum of Natural History. Photo from the site amnh.org


In the Bronx zoo okapi appeared. in 1937 - the first in America. And two years earlier, okapi ended up in London Zoo : in August 1935 King of Belgium Leopold III gave okapi to the prince of Wales Edward VIII , and the prince passed him to the zoo. The appearance of such an unusual animal outside of Africa caused a stir around the world. But, alas, in November of that year, okapi died.


The elusive okapi

Photo of the first okapi at the London Zoo, 1935. Photo from madbushfarm.blogspot.com


Nowadays, okapi live in 143 zoos in the world, they have already learned to keep them in captivity. But with observations in the natural habitat, everything is still not easy. It’s no joke, the first photo of living okapi in nature was made only in 2008 - 107 years after the discovery! And the photo was not taken by a scientist or photographer, but by an automatic camera trap. Truly, this is truly an African unicorn (so called okapi for elusiveness)! Other photos and even videos later appeared. All of them are made by photo traps.


The elusive okapi

The first photos of okapi in a natural habitat in daylight, 08/10/2008 National Park Virunga , Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo from the site wired.com . Two days before this, the first was made by a photo trap in the same forest. night shot okapi


Johnston also wrote that okapi easily fell into traps, which is why the inhabitants of the Congo were quickly exterminating it, and spoke about the need to protect this wonderful animal. Okapi has a very small range - the north-eastern and central part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And although now a significant part of these territories has become reserves and since 1933 in the republic 3-3-33317. were taken measures for the protection of okapi, their range has been reduced since the time when Johnston was looking for them in the forests near the Semliki River: okapi no longer live there. The main threats to the species are deforestation, expansion of settlements, poaching. The species is classified as endangered.

Okapi chews leaves in the Congo forest. Check out the other videos. OkapiConservation , there is, for example, a video of a mother with a cub

Such an elusive beast, hiding for so long from science, was the emblem of the International Society of Cryptozoology ( International Society of Cryptozoology ). It was created in 1982 and ceased to exist in 1998. Let's hope okapi does not suffer such a fate.

Pierre-Jacques Smith lithograph based on a drawing by Harry Hamilton Johnston from the magazine Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London , 1901 vol. II (may – december).

Julia Mikhnevich

02 июнь 2020 /
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