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There’s a New Sylvester in Town

Baby Okapi Makes Public Debut at Houston Zoo

Photo of Sylvester by Hoofstock Keeper Memory.

Sylvester, the okapi meets Sylvester, the Mayor. The one-month-old male calf was named after Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner. The name Sylvester means “forest dweller” which is where okapis can be found in their native range in Central Africa. Sylvester the okapi is slowly showing his personality. The calf has a lot of spunk and has already doubled his birth weight. Guests can see Sylvester in the okapi yard, next to the bongos, every day until noon and as he gets more comfortable with his new surroundings.

Houston Zoo’s president and CEO, Lee Ehmke, with Mayor Sylvester Turner during our okapi Sylvester’s public debut.

Sylvester was born on April 20 to mom Sukari and dad Kwame and spent a few weeks behind the scenes bonding with mom. Okapi mothers use infrasonic communication with their calves, a sound that is below the range of human hearing.

Although easily confused to be related to zebras, because of their stripes, okapis are actually the only living relative to the giraffe. The most prominent similarity is their large black tongue used for plucking buds, leaves, and branches from trees. They also use their tongues for grooming and can even reach their eyeballs.

Okapi Sylvester nursing from mom Sukari as he made his public debut.

Okapi are an endangered species found in the rainforests of Democratic Republic of Congo. By recycling cell phones and other electronics, Houston Zoo guests are helping to save wild animals in central Africa, like the okapi. The metal tantalum is used in these electronics and is destructively mined in central African rainforests, taking away animal habitats. By recycling and reusing electronic devices, guests are reducing the demand for new materials to be mined.