A cute and timid okapi calf finally made his appearance to the public after a month of hiding in his mother's nest. The okapi named Usala is currently residing at the Chester Zoo.

Reports say that the mother of the calf played a very important role in encouraging him to show himself and explore the world.

"Okapis are rather secretive animals and, up until now, Usala has been out of the spotlight, cozied up in his nest," says keeper Fiona Howe. "But thanks to the support of mum Stuma, he's now starting to explore."

Stuma is providing excellent support to her offspring in terms of helping him strengthen his legs, adds Howe. The zoo staff also witnessed how Stuma extends a warm nuzzle to Usala, as if reassuring him that he is doing a great job.

Usala was first introduced to the public when his birth in May was filmed in a video. Since okapis are endangered, Usala's birth became a testament to the positive outcomes of breeding projects of different groups. The said programs were able to produce a total of 14 okapis in the zoos of the UK.

Okapis are well known for the stripes on their legs that function as a guide for their offspring, as their packs roam deep in the forest. This is the reason Usala was seen clinging to his mom's legs since his birth. These animals, which originated in Africa, are considered endangered and rare. In fact, their class was not discovered until after the 20th century. Their species is similar to the family of giraffes. At present, wild okapis can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their numbers have massively decreased following reports of habitat loss and continuous meat-searching.

Chester Zoo announced that they are collaborating with the group responsible for the care and welfare of okapis and giraffes from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for a plan that can help to preserve the species of okapis. The zoo also expressed its support for the interventions of the DRC Wildlife Authority to safeguard the okapis in the Ituri Forest.

Photo: David | Flickr

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