What's new at Basel Zoo

On Monday 18 February, a baby okapi was born at Basel Zoo. This is the cause of great excitement as it is only the fourth okapi calf to be raised at Basel Zoo in the past 20 years!

The new son of okapi Ebony (8) has been named “Quenco”. The small bull is exceptionally strong and curious. Just twenty minutes after he was born in the late afternoon on Monday, he began standing on his own shaky yet sturdy little legs and looking for milk from his mother. The following morning, he had already succeeded in jumping over the low barrier separating the neighbouring enclosure and begun to investigate. His long legs are still a little wobbly and his big ears a little floppy but Quenco is in excellent health and is drinking regularly.

Basel Zoo is particularly ecstatic about the newest member of the antelope house as Ebony’s last calf was born too early and was stillborn. Okapis are also very rare: it is estimated that there are only around 10,000 of these animals left in the wild and only 75 animals spread over 25 zoos as part of the breeding programme for this species. Okapis are indigenous to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Good things come to those who wait

Just like our shy native deer, okapi calves are “hiders”. The young animals spend their first few weeks lying down away from their mothers, only standing when they are called to drink. In the wild, this reduces the chances of the young animals being found by predators, as young okapis remain virtually odourless, unlike the adults. This behaviour is also why visitors to the zoo will have to be patient for the first few weeks to catch a glimpse of Quenco. He sleeps a lot and spends a lot of time hidden amongst the straw. When he needs a bit more peace and quiet, he can also retreat back into the stall. But good things come to those who wait: young okapis have a wonderful stripy pattern around their eyes. This sign of youth disappears as the okapi grows up. The small white patch seen on his black-and-white front legs will also grow bigger with age. Quenco can be seen in the antelope house, which is closed only between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. To avoid disturbing the mother and calf, we ask that you keep noise to a minimum when in the antelope house.

Basel Zoo supports an okapi conservation project

The last time an okapi grew up at Basel Zoo was in 2016. This was Nuru, who now lives in Antwerp Zoo, which manages the breeding programme for this endangered species. Okapis are endangered in the wild, and a rough population size of 10,000 animals is only an estimation. Over the decades, bloody civil wars have threatened okapi populations and their habitat. Famine, streams of refugees and marauding soldiers have also provided adverse conditions for any real conservation efforts to be made on the reserves there.

Basel Zoo has supported the “Okapi Conservation Project” for over 30 years. The project is located in the Ituri forest, a hotspot for biodiversity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project teaches gamekeepers on site about wildlife conservation and supports locals by providing direct aid such as medical care, education and the development of sustainable agricultural models. The aim is to give the people there better long-term prospects and to protect the environment in a sustainable manner.