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Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Okapi Okapia johnstoni


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

an okapi reach for branches with its long tounge

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.

Page Citations

Bodmer & Gubista (1988)
Bodmer & Rabb (1992)
Crissey et al. (2001)
Hart (1992)
Hart & Hart (1988)

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