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What do you get when...?

What do you get when you cross a zebra with a giraffe? A gibra? A zeraffe? A walking barber pole? The world's tallest candy cane?

The okapi (oh-KAHP-ee) isn't really a cross between a giraffe and zebra. But it looks as if it could be! The okapi has stripes and a body like a zebra. It has a head, tongue, and legs like a giraffe.

So what is an okapi? Where does it live? And why does it look so strange?

Okapis are among the rarest animals in the world. They live in the rain forests of the Congo River Valley in central Africa.

The okapi shares the rain forest with chimpanzees, forest elephants, giant hogs, deerlike bongos, and the deadly gaboon viper.

The okapi's stripes help hide it from its two most dangerous enemies--the leopard and man.

The okapi is a relative of the giraffe. Like the giraffe, the okapi has a sloped back, fur-covered horns, and an incredibly long tongue! The okapi uses its tongue to grab leaves and to lick its purplish-brown fur clean.

The okapi does not need a giraffe's long neck to find food. The fruits and leaves that the okapi eats grow nearer to the ground in the rain forest.

Scientists didn't even know okapis existed until 1901. That's when local tribesmen showed one to Sir Henry Johnston. They called the animal "okapi," which means "donkey" in their language.

When okapis play, they put their heads down, lean forward, and wag their tails as they run in a circle. This kind of playing is called the pooky.
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Title Annotation:the okapi
Publication:U.S. Kids
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Words:263
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