Two young okapi, cousins to the giraffe, are new additions to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Two young okapi, an African forest mammal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra, have taken up residence in the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore's giraffe house.

The two okapi are half-brothers, on loan from the Dallas Zoo. Askari (ahz-kar-ee) is almost two years old, while Magani (mah-gah-nee) is one. They arrived at the zoo on Oct. 18.

"The two arrived in fine shape after their 16-hour ride from Dallas to Baltimore," Mike McClure, the zoo's general curator, said in a press release.

In the wild, okapi, sometimes referred to as "the short-necked giraffe of Africa," can be found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They sport a dark reddish-brown coat with white stripes on their hind end and front upper legs, and white ankles on their lower legs. Their rear legs are noticeably shorter than their front legs, and they have relatively long necks and a long, prehensile tongue — much like their nearest relatives, giraffes.

The zoo's own okapi, a 14-year-old male named Hiari, was moved to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago earlier this year, as part of a breeding program overseen by the Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP). "We anticipate being a part of the breeding program here in the future," McClure said. "But for now, we are very happy to teach our visitors about these rare animals."

The okapi will be kept apart from other animals in the giraffe house for 30 days. Visitors, however, will be able to observe them during this quarantine period, zoo officials said.

There are an estimated 80 okapi in U.S. zoos. They are managed by the Okapi SSP of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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