It’s amazing! Amazing video shows how okapis can get in their EYES so they don’t get poked by pointed branches.

  • The footage shows an okapi at Oklahoma City Zoo activating its ‘third eyelid’
  • Okapis are found solely in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa
  • The only living relative to the giraffe is Okapia Johnstoni, a mysterious species.  

Incredible video footage shows an okapi ‘sucking’ its eyes inwards – a tactic the species evolved to avoid getting jabbed by pointy branches in the wild.  

The incredible footage, which was uploaded to TikTok from Oklahoma City Zoo, shows a resident okapi cheekily pushing its bulbous eyes back with its ‘third’ eyelid. 

Okapis are endemic in the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (central Africa).

They are part of the giraffids family, which also includes modern-day giraffes. However, they look more like a cross between a deer or a zebra. 

The footage, posted by Oklahoma City Zoo, shows one of its resident okapis displaying its 'third eyelid'

Oklahoma City Zoo posted footage of one of its resident okapis showing off its ‘third eyeslid’


Appearance: Reddish brown with striped zebra-like front and hind quarters.

Thick, velvety, and oily fur. Large, straight ears and a long, prehensile mouth for grabbing branches or leaves 

Behaviour: Shy and elusive; generally solitary. 

Diet: 100 different types of plants including their leaves, bark and fruit 

Habitat: Dense rainforest 

‘Okapi can pull the eyes deep into the socket,’ Oklahoma City Zoo said in the video’s caption. 

“This protects their eyes against stray branches and vegetation while walking through the rainforest.  

In the 1999 book The Okapi: Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire, a team of experts describe the ‘third eyelid’ – officially called a ‘nictitating membrane’ – that makes the trick possible. 

The authors explained that okapi’s protruding eye appear to pull back into their sockets when they blink. 

“Each eye has an nictitating membrane (a third, lateral-extending eyelid that can be extended across the eyeball).

“This membrane helps to protect your eye and keep it moist. 

This third eyelid can also occur in domestic dogs or cats. A remnant of a third eyelid is the small, pinkish blob that can be found in the corner of the eye of a human being. 

The okapi, the only living relative to the giraffe is able to clean any part, including its eyes, using its 10-inch tongue. 

The 'third eyelid', or nictitating membrane, can be extended laterally across the eyeball as extra protection

As an extra layer of protection, the ‘third eyelid’ (or nictitating membrane) can be extended laterally across your eyeball.

Gareth Chamberlain, an okapi keeper at Zoological Society of London Zoo, said ‘there’s nothing else like the okapi on the planet’. 

He stated that not much is known about the Okapi because it was discovered in 1901 by ZSL.   

They are also a mysterious species that live in dense rainforests where it can be difficult to find them.    

The okapi has a dark, shiny coat which helps it blend in to the dark environment of the Congo. 

The okapi has a dark, shiny coat which helps it blend in to the dark environment of the Congo

The Okapi has a dark, shiny hair that blends in with the dark environment of Congo.

The okapi's striped giraffe-like legs are thought to help for camouflage and guiding its young

The okapi’s striped giraffe-like legs are thought to help for camouflage and guiding its young

It also has stripes along its front and hind legs, which blend into the undergrowth, making predators such leopards difficult to spot. 

The okapi’s striped bottom may also help calves follow their mothers through a rainforest.      

Another great adaption of the okapi is their ears,’ said Chamberlain. Chamberlain stated that the okapi’s large ears are great for hearing. They can turn their ears almost 360 degrees and use their hearing to safety.  

Unfortunately, the okapi is listed as ‘endangered’ by IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, with populations ‘decreasing’. 

The species is threatened by habitat loss and hunting, leading to a fall in numbers, says ZSL. 

The Okapi Conservation Project, founded in 1987, is continuously working to preserve populations of the species.