The Cryptid Zoo: Okapi

The okapi is an animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra. It was reported from Africa by native folklore, but even the export of okapi skins did not persuade the doubters. People thought that the okapi just sounded too much like an animal that had been made up. It was obviously a mythical mixture of a zebra and a giraffe, a kin to the griffin, centaur, and other legendary creatures made by pasting together the parts of various real animals. The odd skins, with striping on the legs and solid blocks of brown or white elsewhere, were probably faked in some way.

The okapi may have remained an animal that was known to outsiders only through folklore, except for the efforts of Sir Harry Johnston. He believed native informants and sent skins and skulls to scientists until he was able to weaken skepticism and gain research money for the cause. Capture of live animals finally destroyed the last of the skepticism and the okapi was declared a real animal. When cryptozoology emerged as a science, the okapi was often held up as a symbol of cryptozoology, especially as used in the logo of the International Society of Cryptozoology. Until the discovery of the Vu Quang Ox, the okapi was the last significant new large mammal to be accepted by science.

Despite its discovery, we know little about okapis today, except what we have learned from the few animals kept in zoos. The animal is rare and nearly impossible to observe in the wild. The Uganda okapis are now thought to be extinct. The last remaining okapis live in the Congo, restricted to a narrow band of dense rainforest cloaking mountains above 1500 feet, but below 3000 feet.

You can find out more about the Okapi from the following sources:

Barns, Thomas Alexander. The Wonderland of the Eastern Congo: The Region of the Snow-crowned Volcanoes, the Pygmies, the Giant Gorilla and the Okapi.

Bennett, Cynthia L. & Green, Mary Neel. The Okapi: Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 184-186

Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Pages 186-187

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Page 6
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Schlein, Miriam. The Search for a Mystery Animal.

Schlein, Miriam. On the Track of the Mystery Animal: The Story of the Discovery of the Okapi.

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Page 181

Wikipedia, The. Okapi

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