Artefact August 2013

Recent births at ZSL London Zoo include Adi an Malayan tapir, and Daphne, an okapi calf. Follow these links to see photographs of Daphne and video of Adi.

Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) lithograph by Joseph Smit 1902
Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) lithograph by Joseph Smit 1902

This lithographic plate accompanies the paper describing the okapi's discovery, the paper is freely available online Hidden Gem - Paper in the Transactions describing a new species of Giraffidae This fascinating paper first describes this species which was as yet unknown to science. E. Ray Lankester, MA, LLD, FRS, FZS, Director of the Natural History Departments of the British Museum, reported on Sir Harry Johnston’s discovery of the okapi in this paper. Sir Harry Johnston first became aware of the existence okapi from Sir Henry Stanley’s In Darkest Africa, in which Stanley mentions that Wambutti natives referred to a donkey, called ‘Atti’, which they sometimes caught in pits. On receiving a complete skin with double hoof-bones it was immediately apparent to Sir Harry Johnston that the okapi is not really a horse-like animal at all but belonged to the group of Artiodactyle ungulates. Sir Harry Johnston commented that the absence of horns and the length of the ears accounted for the comparison of the animal to a donkey or a zebra but on examination of the two skulls, he concluded that the okapi is closely related to giraffe. In addition to the account of the history of the discovery of the okapi and the detailed description of the specimens, do not miss Text-fig 14, which is a beautiful diagram showing the arrangement of the hair upon the frontal and basinasal regions of the okapi's head.

ZSL awarded the silver medal to Sir Harry Johnston in 1894 for zoological investigations in British Central Africa.

Young Indian tapir, watercolour by Joseph Smit. 1882.
Young Indian tapir, watercolour by Joseph Smit. 1882.

Joseph Smit (1836-1929) was a zoological artist and lithographer, providing many plates for the publications of the Zoological Society. His son Pierre Jacques Smit (1863-1960) was also a zoological artist. ZSL Library holds a number of art works by both Smits and further details can be found in our online catalogue, select the button on the sidebar of the catalogue to search specifically for art works.

ZSL's art works form part of the `special collections' of ZSL Library, you are welcome to visit and consult/view them but an appointment is necessary Library Regulations for Special Collections (96.46 KB)

Please email library@zsl.org or telephone 020 447 6293 to make an appointment.

Many resources are available in ZSL Library and no appointment is necessary to use these, however if you are a ZSL member please bring your membership card. Non-members will need proof of address and photographic ID if you are not already a member of ZSL.

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