A smaller and shy cousin of the giraffe (without the long neck), the Okapi is is unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where poaching, habitat loss, and the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners are the principal threats to its survival.
It is now ranked as endangered, the third step from extinction on the IUCN's nine-notch scale, together with the White-winged Flufftail, one of Africa's rarest birds.
In an update to its Red List of threatened species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the animals had been driven to ever closer to destruction.Of the 71,576 species assessed by the IUCN, 21,286 are threatened with extinction.
"The Okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol -? it even features on the Congolese franc banknotes," said Noelle Kumpel, of IUCN. "Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of Okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin," she said, adding that its survival hinges on supporting government efforts to stem violence and help the poor.