Amazing Kids! Magazine

What is Oily with Brown Fur and has a Zebra’s Butt?

By Enzo Monfre, SciTech Kids! Columnist


It’s been nearly 5 years since we started making videos here at Exploration Nation. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Then again, sometimes it feels more like 50 years ago. In other words, I forget some of the cool stuff we’ve done in episodes we have made.

On the bright side, we have TONS of camera footage which can sometimes help me to remember some of the things that I have explored and learned. There are other ways to keep memories like photo albums, scrapbooks, pictures, journals, video blogs, etc. This article is about one of my most memorable episodes, the time I spent with the okapi.

The okapi is the only known relative of the giraffe. To get the sense of what it looks like, imagine a giraffe that has been washed too many times with bleach, a zebra, and a brown sock. Its body is mostly brown with the exception of its butt, which looks like a zebra. The reason I said it looked like it had been washed too many times is because its neck is shorter than a giraffes neck. It has adapted to live in the jungles of Africa, making its neck is shorter so it doesn’t smack its face into a tree branch.

Okapis are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They are herbivores, that means they eat plants. Something very strange about the okapi is that it has a 14-inch long, blue, prehensile tongue that is used for stripping leaves of small trees and bushes.

A baby okapi will not pee or poop for 8 weeks after it is born so that predators can’t smell it. Ever notice the little stumps on the head of the giraffe, all giraffes have them, they are called ossicones. With okapis, only the males have them.

The okapi I met was named Chuma. He was at least the size of a horse. At the zoo he lived in I helped take care of the other okapis by spraying apple scent and hiding alfalfa in their habitat. It’s called enrichment, it keeps animals active and avoids boredom. I also… uh… cleaned up poop.

When we were taping a joke, Chuma stuck his massive head right in front of me.(he actually scared me a little bit and I scared him at the same time!) While I was petting Chuma, I noticed that his fur was oily, it turns out that the oil repels water and keeps him dry. (It’s called the rain forest for a reason.)

Videotaping memories is one of the best ways to remember them, because it can capture the sound and picture from that moment.