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Rare okapi calf born at ZooTampa has died


A rare baby okapi calf, an endangered distant relative of the giraffe, has died less than two months after she was born at ZooTampa at Lowry Park.

The zoo broke the sad news on Facebook Thursday, saying laboratory tests suggest the female okapi (pronounced oh-COP-ee) had a condition similar to diabetes.

The zoo announced the birth of the shy endangered animal, with legs that looked like they were sporting knee socks, with much pride on Aug. 28. Parents Betty and Zach arrived at the Tampa zoo in 2006 and are part of the Species Survival Plan of the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums. Veterinarians at the zoo tended to Betty’s prenatal care with regular ultrasounds and a unique milk-testing method found helpful in horses and rhinoceros.

“We are devastated by this loss,” the zoo announcement said. “While the calf reached milestones, such as standing on her own and nursing, she was less than six weeks old. Laboratory tests and a necropsy (animal autopsy) suggest she had a condition similar to diabetes. We are watching the calf’s mother, Betty, closely and she is doing well. We care deeply for every animal at the zoo.”

The solitary chocolate brown animals with a face resembling a giraffe and zebra-like striped legs are native to the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where conflict and human encroachment have reduced their numbers to an estimated 10,000 to 35,000.

Sometimes called a forest giraffe, the okapi only living relative of the giraffe, and this birth drew much-needed attention to an endangered species, the zoo said at the time.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

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