Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)
Congolese Pygmies tell travelers about some creature that appears to be a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. Ridiculous, they say. Do we have another kongamato on our hands? Well fortunately for us, Sir Harry Johnston took them seriously. That’s why today most every zoo around the world has an okapi. That’s right, this month I am writing about a creature that definitively exists!
For years, the natives of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo told travelers about an animal that frequented their lands that appeared to be some kind of blending of the giraffe and the zebra. Of course, no one believed the primitive people of the land. When Sir Harry Johnston rescued a group of Congolese Pygmies, they rewarded Johnston with tales of the okapi, and eventually showed him tracks from the creature. Johnston did not manage to see the okapi himself, but he was able to obtain pieces of skin and a skull. In 1901, the scientific community was introduced to the okapi.
These days okapi are common in zoos, but people believed they were going extinct in their native environment. Since 1959, the okapi had not been seen in the wild, but again the okapi kept scientists on their toes by showing up again in the wild in 2006.
The significance of the okapi is not lost on those that run cryptozoological circles. Until 1901, despite frequent instances of natives talking about the okapi, it didn’t exist. Then, one day it just did. In fact, the International Society of Cryptozoology, which I regrettably believe is now defunct, adopted it as their emblem. I cannot help but wonder what else is out there.
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