Nothing shady about this species! Well, except for its exhibit needs, since okapis come from dense rain forests in Central Africa.
  • 1950s
  • 1960s

Five months after the cable arrived from the Belgium government notifying the Zoo of the gift collected from the Ituri Forest in Congo, a male okapi named Bayahu arrived in 1956. Much fanfare surrounded this mysterious creature, with its velvety brown coat and hodge-podge of white stripes on its legs and flanks. Fortunately, he was the picture of good health upon arrival, despite an arduous journey and two months of quarantine in Germany and another month of quarantine in the US.

Bayahu adapted quite happily to his diet of acacia leaves and twigs, alfalfa, bamboo, carrots, bananas, and apples. Soon after, two females, Kitambala and Lizette, joined him. Zoo staff were “overjoyed that the trio was so well-adjusted from the beginning,” observed the then-curator of mammals George H. Pournelle. On February 8, 1962, Kitambala gave birth to the first okapi calf born at the San Diego Zoo, and the fourth born in the US. He was named Baruti, a Swahili expression for dynamite. As the okapi family grew, the Zoo created an exhibit in step with their natural shady, forested habitat.

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