Habitat and Geography

The okapi are native to the Ituri Rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest covers roughly 24,300 square miles in the northern part of the Congo River Basin (The Living Africa, 1998). Its boundaries are difficult to define since the forest blends into other forests and swamp regions that surround it to the south and the east (The Living Africa, 1998). A savanna borders the rainforest to the north and a rift valley to the west. In the forest the okapi prefer altitudes of 500-1000 feet above sea level but sometimes venture to areas higher than that (Lindsey, 1956). rainforest

Ituri is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse regions. Along with the okapi it is also home to 445 other known species of animals, especially mammals like the African Elephant and Hippopotamus. (Wildlife Conservation Society, 2013). As well as having a many different animal species it also is home to a large variety of plant life. In just one 100-acre block of forest over 720 different species of trees and vines can be observed (Wildlife Conservation Society, 2013). Some species can only be found in this area such as the rainforest giraffe, the okapi, the forest buffalo, and seventeen species of primates.

One area in particular, The Okapi Wildlife Reserve, is home to more okapi than other regions of the forest. About 1/5 of the forest is made up of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. An estimated 10,000-20,000 okapi live in the reserve with several other endangered species (Okapi Preservation, 2011). Normally the okapi prefer to stay in the more heavily forested areas of the reserve, however they also are observed in nearby riverbeds (Rainforest Alliance, 2013). Some of the rivers that flow through the reserve are the Ituri, Nepoko, and Epulu rivers. Along with these animals, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is also populated by hunter-gatherers from both the Mbuti and the Efe ethnic groups (African Natural Heritage, 2009).  

The forest floor largely consists of roots because of the large amount of trees. Because of this some areaokapi ranges of the forest are impassable by foot (The Living Africa, 1998). A thick canopy of leaves only allows small amounts of sunlight to reach the floor. Patterns that the filtered sunlight makes greatly help the okapi’s camouflage (Bodmer and Rabb 1992). It also makes growth for smaller vegetation on the forest floor difficult.

The Ituri is very humid and receives large amounts of precipitation. During an average year the Ituri Rainforest receives about 75 inches of rain (The Living Africa, 1998). The most rainfall occurs during the months of October and November. Flooding is common during those months, which makes traveling along the forest floor difficult. In December and February there is a dry season. Less than 7 inches of rain falls during these months. The average temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (The Living Africa, 1998). Humidity in the Ituri rainforest stays around 85%.

Ituri is in many ways similar to other rainforests throughout the world. It has high temperatures, humidity levels, and rainfall. The large variety of trees and animal species in it is also much like other rainforests. It is the rare and endangered species that live within it, such as the okapi, that set it apart.