A Short Family Tree for a Tall Family
Everyone here knows what a giraffe is. At least I hope you do. Giraffes are one of the most easily recognized large land mammals on earth, but not very many people know that giraffes have a cousin, and were once part of a much bigger family.
The Okapi is now known to be the giraffe’s only living relative, but before 1900 no one knew giraffes had any more living relatives. From the fossil record, there have been many other giraffe relatives discovered. These include:
Recently there has been some controversy over the classification of giraffe species, with some researchers wanting to reclassify various subspecies as fully different species. The main differences cited for their reasoning is the differences in pattern in their coats. Some have larger square-like patches, others have spots that resemble stars. The only notable exception would be the Rothschild giraffe, which is different not because of its spots, but because of its ossicones. Unlike most giraffe subspecies, it actually has five; however you must look closely to see them. It has a pair on the top of its head like most giraffes, but it also has a small pair behind its ears that are little more than bumps, and one single ossicone in the middle of its forehead. This one stands out the most, though it is still quite small compared to the main pair. But for now, the giraffe and the okapi will remain the only two members of the family.
But what is an okapi? Most people have never even heard of such an animal, and for many of you this is your introduction to this unique creature.
The okapi is a strange looking creature. If I were to draw it, it would not look out of place if the drawing were added to the slideshow of extinct relatives.
Like most of those animals it looks like a mix of other creatures combined with the giraffe. In this case it looks like part giraffe, part horse, and part zebra. The basic shape of the body is somewhere between the shape of a giraffe and a horse. Its hair is a dark chocolate brown, though females sometimes have a little more red in their coats. The males have two ossicones, and the females have none. The female is also larger than the male. The most striking feature of the okapi is its hindquarters and legs. They are striped just like a zebra. Because of these stripes it has been nicknamed the rainforest zebra. Its coloring helps it blend into the dense forests it inhabits, and it is thought that the stripes help baby okapis keep track of their mothers. The okapi’s coat is very soft and velvet-like, and it is oily and waterproof. Like the giraffe it has a long, black, prehensile tongue that is over 18 inches in length. It is used for reaching food, and also for cleaning its eyes and ears. The Okapi is 5 to 6 feet tall at the shoulder, and 7 to eight feet long.
Here I will interrupt the speech to say that this picture got the best reaction out of everyone. No one there had even heard of the okapi, so when I brought up this picture they were stunned at how big it was. There were gasps and murmurs, and someone said “Woah!”
The okapi is found only in the tropical forests around the Congo river basin an Africa. It is quite shy and does not like to venture out of the forest, though one was once spotted on a mountain called Mt. Hoyo.
Though they sometimes will gather in small groups to feed, okapis are very solitary and usually only come together to mate. Not much is known about their mating habits in the wild, as they have only been observed in captivity. Their courtship involves circling, sniffing, and licking each other. After they have mated they go their separate ways. The mother carries the baby for around 440 days before giving birth. Baby okapis are able to stand up only a half an hour after being born. For the first couple of days the baby will follow its mother around and explore its environment, but after that it makes a nest and spends around 80% of its time there hiding from predators. They are usually weaned at around 6 months, though some continue nursing till they are a year old. They are able to breed at around the age of two, but are not fully grown until the age of three. No one knows how long okapis live in the wild, but in captivity they have been known to live upwards of thirty years.
Okapis are vegetarians and eat a wide variety of leaves, buds, and shoots, many of which are poisonous to humans. Okapis also eat many different kind of berries, ferns, grasses, and fungus. They even eat the charcoal from trees that have been struck by lightning and burned. Observations in the wild have revealed that the okapi fulfills its mineral and salt requirements by eating a type of red clay found near riverbanks and streams.
The okapi is a very rare creature and aside from what has been observed from captive okapis not much is known about their wild behavior, as they are rather hard to find for study. They are extremely shy and retreat into the dense forests if they feel threatened. They were not recognized by science as a real animal until 1900 when Harry Johnston sent proof of their existence in the form of two pieces of zebra-like skin to London.
Ever since I was little I have loved giraffes and okapis. They are both amazing animals. It is very fascinating to me to learn about them. I find okapis even more fascinating, considering that there is still so much that scientists still do not know about them.
Unfortunately I went over the time limit. We had between 5 and 7 minutes to give the speech and I went over eight. Other than that I apparently did ok.
Things have been going pretty well in my other classes. In Launching the imagination I have now finished the collage project. The one piece that I drew that my teacher wanted some more overlapping in I rethought and redrew it.
I drew it rather small compared to the size of the paper, so I decided to redraw it, and rework the proportions.
When I cut out the circles I cut a slit in all of them, and linked them into a chain, then I glued them all together in such a way so that the slits would not show, then I glued them to the paper.
In Design 1 I have been doing a bunch of smaller projects lately instead of one big one that takes weeks like we did with the kite project. Last week we did a project where we used 3 or 4 of our favorite and least favorite colors to create a composition. It didn’t have to look like anything in particular, but they needed to be well filled in. This took me a very long time because the only thing we had was colored pencils and markers. Neither of which color in anything boldly. Most people in the class hurriedly scribbled out their colors and left, but I took my time, and ended up mixing colored pencils and markers in order to get the specific shades I wanted.
Yesterday we painted again! I was very excited about this, but it didn’t turn out so well this time. We had to do four separate paintings, each based on a different season. The only problem was that they were all due that day. I think I would have done better if they had been assigned one at a time so I could have taken my time.
Today I have been hard at work on my Drawing 1 homework. Our assignment for this week was 25 gesture drawings. These are quick drawings where you sketch out the object or model rapidly and then make the outline bolder. The longer you work on it the more defined the shape becomes. I thought I was going to hate this, but once I got into it, it was pretty fun.
Well, that’s all my news for now. Hopefully I will get some of my graded artwork back tomorrow, so that I can share it with you.