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Part zebra, part giraffe, okapis are coming to Dublin

DUBLIN Zoo is preparing for two new arrivals, which are sure to be a hit with visitors this summer.

The zoo has secured permission from Dublin City Council to develop a new okapi enclosure.

It comes ahead of the arrival of a pair of okapi – forest giraffes from central Africa.

The development will involve the demolition of an existing building, to be replaced by two new single-storey holding enclosures.

Approval has also been given for the installation of a new play forest area at a now unused animal exhibit.

A spokeswoman for the zoo confirmed that the okapis have yet to arrive. However, it is understood they are due at the Phoenix Park amenity shortly.

The developments are part of a number of measures designed to boost visitor numbers even further following the zoo's record-breaking year in 2012.

The footfall figure for last year reached an all-time high of 1,029,41 – and the overwhelming majority of visitors were Irish.

It represented a 2.5pc increase when compared to 2011.

Although resembling a zebra, the okapi is most closely related to the giraffe and is found in a small pocket of tropical mountain forest in central Africa.

It is one of the last remaining ancestors of the giraffe, a connection which can be seen in its relatively long neck compared to its body size.

Okapis are known to be very shy and secretive, but visitors to Dublin Zoo will be hoping the okapis will come out of their shells so they can catch a glimpse of the elusive animals.

Earlier this year, the zoo welcomed the arrival of Asian lion Kumar.

And it didn't take the seven-year-old too long to mate with lioness sisters Zuri and Sita.

ENDANGERED

The introduction took 10 weeks of watching, planning and looking at body language.

Kumar mated first with Zuri in mid-April and then with Sita later in the month.

Zuri and Sita both came from Mulhouse, France, last year, and Kumar from Rotterdam.

An international breeding programme for the highly endangered species is under way in zoos worldwide. Only 350-400 remain in the wild and can only be found in the Gir forest in India.

comurphy@herald.ie


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