The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a popular Walt Disney World Resort in Florida that is, of course, perfect for fans of the Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Kilimanjaro Safaris. African wildlife like giraffes and zebras populate the Animal Kingdom Lodge grounds, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom team also continues to expand their population of African and Asian wildlife — particularly endangered wildlife — as responsibly as they can. These highly thought-out breeding efforts have been successful for many species, and now a rare okapi is the newest little arrival!
Okapis are famously-shy animals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their stripes might make them seem like zebra relatives, but giraffes are actually okapis’ close kin. The rare okapi is often known as a “ghost of the forest” because they are so hard to spot in rainforest settings — and if you spot one on Kilimanjaro Safaris, it is a real highlight of your Disney vacation!
Okapis are so hard to find that they were actually labeled as mythological creatures until 1901. Now, they are an important symbol in the DRC. Disney’s new addition to the endangered okapi population is named Beni, after a town in the DRC. Take a look at this adorable arrival in the video from Disney, shown below!
As usual, it is human activity that has been placing okapis in danger and has brought their population down to 20,000 (particularly habitat loss due to humans, and poachers).
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan approved Disney’s okapi breeding plans, and Beni is now the twelfth rare okapi to be born at Disney World (not to mention the fifth rare okapi to be born at the Animal Kingdom Lodge).
Disney has not just been helping okapis on Disney property; Disney is also a supporter of the Okapi Conservation Project, and the Disney Conservation Fund gave the Okapi Conservation Project “agroforestry team” its 2020 Disney Conservation Hero award.
Since October 18 is actually World Okapi Day, the birth of Beni is particularly timely! Congratulations to Beni, his mother Olivia, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge team!