(ORDO NEWS) — The okapi is an African mammal resembling a cross between a zebra and a donkey. Their only bizarre feature is two hair-covered, horn-like structures called ossicons, which sit just above the eyes.
It may sound strange, but the okapi actually belongs to the giraffe family and these protrusions are in many ways similar to the horns of a giraffe.
The okapi isn’t particularly unusual, certainly not compared to the giant squid or platypus. However, until 1901 it was considered a myth.
The problem was that its Central African habitat was already well known to European explorers, and since they had never seen it, they did not believe the locals’ stories about the okapi.
Okapis inhabit incredibly dense forests and lead a quiet, solitary life. Even the locals who told stories about them saw them very rarely.
Their knowledge of the okapi was mostly based on evidence left by the animals, such as footprints, rather than actual sightings.
In 1890, Sir Henry Stanley was the first European to describe this mammal after traveling through the region. However, he did not have hard evidence, so the okapi remained “fiction and myth.”
It wasn’t until 1901 that the zoologist Sir Harry Johnston obtained a skull and some skins with the help of local residents. With this physical evidence, the existence of the okapi was finally confirmed.
The okapi wasn’t filmed in the wild until 2008, which should give an idea of just how difficult it is to track down this beautiful animal.
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