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Highly selective feeder on leaves, fruits, seeds, ferns, fungi of some 100 plant species.
- Prefer to browse in small forest openings where fallen trees allow growth of light-dependent plants; prefer fast-growing tree seedlings, shrubs and vines
- Okapi plants are only a temporary resource, scattered widely across the forests; most plants are not acceptable forage
- Do not choose shade-tolerant shrubs and select only a small proportion of all the plants available.
- Like giraffes, okapis use long, prehensile tongue to pull leaves off branches; a slender muzzle and flexible lips also help with choosing the "right" plants.
- Also ingest clay for its minerals, burnt charcoal, and bat guano found in hollow trees.
- Digestive system similar to other browsing ruminants.
- As in giraffes, gall bladder not present.
- Daily food intake (dry matter) of okapi in managed care ranges from 4.3-5.0 kg
The Best Eating is Up High
Okapis have a dark blue tongue for reaching leaves high in the trees.
They selectively feed on fast-growing, light-dependent plants.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Bodmer & Gubista (1988)
Bodmer & Rabb (1992)
Crissey et al. (2001)
Hart & Hart (1988)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org