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Famous Butts of the Animal World: The Okapi

By Sarah M Gibbs, on 10 December 2018

Jungle-politan’s Senior Relationships and Lifestyle Correspondent, Sarah Serengeti, examines pressing posterior issues.

Hey there, all you sassy Jungle ladies! Sarah Serengeti here. Now, as you may have learned from a few little posts on my Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter (retweeted thirty-seven times!), and Snapchat accounts, I was recently voted Best Lifestyle Columnist (Four-Legged and Flightless Bird Division) at the annual Savannah Magazine Awards. But I don’t want my readers to worry that my fame will make me rest on my laurels (or, you know, just eat a celebratory antelope and then sleep for three days). No, this award has spurred me on to pursue solutions to challenging reader dilemmas. Hence, my recent memorable columns: “So You’re Dating Your Natural Predator: Tips to Enjoy Times with the Bad Boys” and “Dying Your Pelt: How to Find the Best Spots and Stripes Stylists.” This month, I take on an even more pressing issue: butts.

Ever since Pippa Tiger-ton slunk her way into the jungle, the watering hole chatter has been all about generous backsides. How to get them? How to maintain them? Will they throw off your balance so much that you nosedive trying to swing through the canopy? To find answers, I’ve started a new series, “Famous Butts of the Animal World.” These interviews will get the facts direct from the horse’s (or baboon’s or thylacine’s) mouth. First up, we’ll be talking to a fierce four-legger: the Okapi.

The Okapi (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Sarah: Welcome, Miss Okapi.

Okapi: Uh, thanks. You can call me “Oki.”

Sarah: Okie-dokie, Oki! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Okapi: Um, I guess, but I’m a bit of a shy animal.

Sarah: Well, we all feel a little invisible sometimes.

Okapi: Actually, I’m way invisible. I live deep in the Ituri rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have keen hearing that lets me detect any stumbling two-footers (humans) long before they see me. I wasn’t even known to science until 1900.

Sarah: Wow! You’re like a hoofed ninja!

Okapi: True dat. And I’m really not a people person. Okapis are solitary animals.

Sarah: Well, I don’t want to get too personal, but I hear you have a famous relative: the giraffe.

Okapi: Yeah, he’s pretty popular. The ladies love a tall guy.

Sarah: Was it difficult to grow up with such a well-known family member?

Okapi: Living in his shadow wasn’t easy. I mean, it’s huge. The dude is two stories tall. It doesn’t help that we have similar heads and ears, and the same long, prehensile tongues. I’ve been asked a lot of times whether I’m a giraffe standing in a hole.

Okapi Calf at the San Diego Zoo.

Sarah: Oki, let’s talk brass tacks. What about that butt?

Okapi: Well, you know, I was really self-conscious about it growing up. I felt that people were staring at it. Which they were, because it’s covered with stripes. The rest of my fur is dark purple or reddish brown, and feels like velvet. And it’s oily to allow water to roll off. Then suddenly, BAM! Butt stripes! One day my mom finally said to me, “It’s unique. It’s you. It’s time you owned that booty!” And she was right. That day, I strutted through the Ituri.

Sarah: Work it, girl!

Okapi: My butt is actually the reason I survive. The markings are great camouflage in the diffuse light of the rainforest, and they help okapis find each other as well. That, and the scent glands. Each of our feet secrets a tar-like substance that marks where we’ve walked. It means if you’re lost in the rainforest department store, you can always find your mom.

Sarah: Any parting words for our readers, Oki?

Okapi: Make sure you love that junk in your trunk!

Sarah: Oh, what a lovely—she gone! She really is a hoofed ninja! Well, until next time, readers, keep it furry and fabulous!

Come see the Okapi at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology!