NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— The Auburn Nature Insitute is celebrating a new member of the Audobon family. An okapi calf, a unique and extremely endangered species, was born at the Audobon Species Survival Center on September 28.

After a 15-month pregnancy, the female calf joined her mom and dad for the first time at the Westbank center. Audubon staffers say the calf has not been named just yet.

According to zoo officials, okapis are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. The okapi, known as “the forest giraffe,” is similar in appearance to a deer crossed with a zebra.

Scientists say there is no exact number of okapi in the wild, but their estimates are grim. In the past 20 years, the number of okapi in the wild is believed to have dropped by almost half of its size.

“The birth of this calf is part of the continuing success story of our Species Survival Center,” said Ron Forman, Audubon Nature Institute’s President, and CEO.

Forman added, “These types of births are the reason we built the Species Survival Center. We consider it an honor and responsibility to help prevent these amazing animals from becoming extinct. And we are delighted to celebrate this birth as such a significant win in our work.”  

Okapis are considered one of the world’s oldest mammals, according to Audubon officials. Currently, six okapis are housed at the facility over 26 acres of habitat.

“So much more remains to discover and understand about this elusive and beautiful animal. As a conservationist, it is exciting to be part of an organization at the forefront of those discoveries—and even more so the significant efforts to save this and so many other endangered species,” said Michelle Hatwood, the general curator of the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center.

Other species that have seen success at the survival center include whooping cranes, African wildcats, Mississippi sandhill cranes, giraffes, clouded leopards, Mexican grey wolves, red wolves, bongo antelope, and eland.