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Louisiana’s West Coast Livestock Is Waiting for a Special Delivery


NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Many people remember April, the pregnant giraffe that went viral a few years ago when breeders announced it was pregnant.

The Audubon Nature Institute may have something to match excitement, at least in the zoo world.

The examiners announced Asili, a four-year-old okapi at a breeding facility on the west coast of Audubon, was pregnant.

“I am very excited about it,” said Michelle Hatwood, General Manager at the Audubon Species Survival Center near the Plaquemines-Orleans Parish boundary. “It’s a big deal in the industry, for zoos and for conservation.

Asili, a pregnant four-year-old okapi at the Audubon Species Survival Center in Algiers
Asili, a pregnant four-year-old okapi at the Audubon Species Survival Center in Algiers(John Snell | John Snell)

“It’s an animal that many people don’t know about,” Hatwood said. “It actually involves a giraffe.”

However, the okapi looks more like a cross between a horse and a zebra.

Five of them live at Audubon’s vast facility near the Orleans-Plaquemines Parish stream, where nearly 500 acres are devoted to the project of breeding animals for zoo populations in North America.

A few years ago, Audubon joined the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in what they called the “Coalition for Sustainable Wildlife,” an effort to ensure unique populations of wild animals. unique and in danger of sustainable extinction.

The two organizations have been working towards the goal of breeding okapis ever since.

Species ranging from giraffes to sitatunga, live in large enclosures within a 500-acre facility.

Here, the okapi enclosure alone spans over 22 acres, giving the animals the opportunity to graze in dense forests closer to their natural habitat than a typical zoo.

“It’s like the rain forest in the south,” Hatwood said. “We get a lot of rain just like they would in the wild and this is the perfect habitat for them.

If all goes according to plan, curators hope Asili will give birth to her calf in July.

Here are some details about okapi provided by Audubon Nature Institute:

Okapi were first discovered by the Western world in 1901, but very little is known about them. They live in the dense forests of the DRC, which is difficult to study and their population is unknown.

Okapi are endangered, threats to their population and habitat include illegal mining, habitat loss and civil unrest.

There are 82 okapis in 28 zoos in the United States and the Species Survival Center has 5 (3 males and 2 females). We plan to grow the population here to 10 plus their offspring here, making us one of the top 3 okapi breeding and conservation centers in the United States, along with the Center for Conservation of Nature. White Oak Conservation (FL) and our partners, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

The AZA Accredited Zoos in the USA work closely with the EAZA Accredited Zoos in Europe to share knowledge of this species as a global management effort.

Zoos in the US and Europe conserve these species by financially supporting and working with the Okapi Conservation Project in Africa (specifically, the Ituri Forest in the DRC).

Okapi females will usually get pregnant for the first time at the age of 4 or 5. Our daughter, Asili, whose pregnancy has been confirmed is 4 years old. They have one child.

Kikari, 12, is the bull offered to father Asili and Minazi’s baby. Every calf born is a celebration in the industry, as they are a difficult animal to breed and with a gestation period of 14 months, young are not common. Three calves were born in the US in the last 12 months.

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