The Oklahoma City Zoo is saddened to announce the death of Mali, one of the Zoo’s adult female okapis. At 27, Mali was the oldest female, zoo-born okapi in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)–accredited zoo.

Last month, Mali’s caretakers noticed that she was experiencing slight bleeding and discharge from her nose and consulted the Zoo’s veterinary team. The vet team performed a visual exam and continued to monitor Mali who at the time was not showing any other signs of discomfort or abnormal behavior. When the vet and animal care teams saw that the bleeding was continuing, they decided to perform a full exam on Mali on Wednesday, and radiographs confirmed she had a tumor and bone damage in her skull. Due to the severity of her condition, Mali was humanely euthanized on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

A member of the OKC Zoo’s animal family since 1997, Mali was a favorite of both guests and caretakers. Her caretakers recall the special bond they had with Mali and that she was a fan of receiving “rub downs” from them. Some of Mali’s favorite treats were elm browse and carrots. 

The median life expectancy for male and female okapis in human care is 16.4 years according to the AZA. The fact that Mali lived well beyond the median life expectancy can be attributed to the incredible care and welfare she received from the Zoo’s vet and animal teams during her life.

Okapi are a reclusive species known in the wild as “ghosts of the forest”. Related to giraffes, okapi are primary found in the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, okapi populations in the wild – estimated between 10,000 and 50,000 – are currently decreasing primarily because of habitat loss resulting from logging and human settlement. The presence of illegal armed groups around protected areas and poaching are also major threats.

The OKC Zoo is also home to female okapi, Kayin, 4.

Photo credit: Lisbeth Pisias and Chris McGovern

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