A trip to Walt Disney World just isn't complete without a visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Whether you frequently visit your local zoo or rarely get the chance to learn about nature, seeing so many beautiful plant and animal species while surrounded by Disney magic is the cherry on top of any Florida park vacation.
However, one area of Animal Kingdom just got a bit more special thanks to the arrival of a very special baby. An okapi calf was born behind the scenes in October 2023, but park guests may now spot him among other okapis in the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail area of the park. Best of all, the baby okapi's name was just announced, and the special sentiment behind it couldn't be sweeter.
What a beautiful baby! The okapi is pretty tall for a baby, but he's also already a few months old. But don't worry--zoo visitors haven't missed out on much! The baby okapi and his mom, Zelda, have been bonding and resting for his first few months of life, but they're now both back in their usual exhibit.
Just when I thought this baby animal couldn't get any cuter, the story of his name nearly moved me to tears. This is such a special way to be honored by an employer--especially one you've dedicated over half of your life to. I hope that one day, Elijah the okapi animal gets to meet his dedicated human namesake!
In a blog post from the Disney World Resort, the Parks' Director of Animal & Science Operations praises Elijah for his hard work. They said, "He plays a critical role in maintaining the beautiful habitats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – from rhinos to okapi and everything in between – he creates environments that help ensure safety and promote enrichment for our animals at Walt Disney World." He's been on the team since 1973, pursuing horticulture, specifically since 1998, and has proven his passion for plants and animals time and time again.
What Is an Okapi?
While many people think that okapis are relatives of the striped zebra because of their black-and-white legs, they're actually more closely related to another zoo animal--the giraffe! If you ask me, this unpredictable species looks like someone copied and pasted their favorite features of several African mammals together, though every feature has a purpose, too.
In the wild, okapis are only seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They're known for being elusive and shy, so more often than not, they'll be hiding behind sagebrush or bushes. Even so, many lucky visitors will get close enough to sneak a peek at the baby themselves!
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