PHOTOS: Beni the Baby Okapi Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Just in time for World Okapi Day on Oct. 18, 2022, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge announced the birth of a rare, endangered okapi calf named Beni. He is the twelfth okapi born at Walt Disney World Resort and the fifth at the lodge.

The healthy, male calf currently weighs just under 100 pounds and stands little over three feet tall from hoof to shoulder. Beni was born in July to first-time mom, Olivia, and the pair remain in their backstage habitat where they can bond privately. The calf will make his debut on the Pembe Savanna in the coming months.

These elusive animals live in rainforests, and black-and-white stripes on their hindquarters and front legs help camouflage them among the trees. Though they look similar to zebras, they’re actually closely related to giraffes.  

Early on, okapi calves “tuck” themselves into nests where they hide from predators. Shy and reclusive okapis are nearly impossible to spot in the rainforest and have earned the nickname “ghosts of the forests.” In fact, okapis were thought to be a myth until 1901 when they were first “discovered” by western scientists. This endangered species is a national symbol of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and they are cherished and revered by the people who live there. 

There are an estimated 20,000 okapi in the world, and their population continues to decline due to poaching and habitat loss.  

Beni’s birth was recommended through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan, which ensures responsible breeding of threatened species in managed care. In addition to working with the AZA, Disney has provided long-term support to okapis in the DRC through the Okapi Conservation Project which works to protect wildlife, support communities and provide conservation education opportunities on the importance of protecting the forest for people and okapi.

In 2020, the Disney Conservation Fund also recognized the Okapi Conservation Project agroforestry team with the Disney Conservation Hero award. This annual award recognizes passionate individuals and teams who are working to save wildlife and engage their communities in conservation solutions.

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PHOTOS: © Walt Disney World Resort. All Rights Reserved.

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