Typically, when we think of giraffes, we imagine an animal with a long neck and variegated patches.
But on July 31, a unique giraffe calf was born with no patches at Brights Zoo in Tennessee. In a statement, the zoo said: “Giraffe experts believe she is the only solid-coloured reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet.”
While Stephanie Fennessy, executive director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), said the group had “never seen a similar giraffe in the wild in Africa”.
David Bright, the zoo’s director, told CBS News that the last record of a spotless giraffe dates back to 1972 in Tokyo. It was born at the Ueno Zoo and was named Toshiko.
Reticulated giraffes are a subspecies of giraffes, sadly suffering population decline, which have brown and orange spots and are native to Africa.
The zoo hopes that the incredibly rare giraffe will bring attention to the challenges the species is facing with its decline.
In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added it to a list of threatened species.
“The international coverage of our patternless baby giraffe has created a much-needed spotlight on giraffe conservation,” said Tony Bright, founder of Brights Zoo, to local television news station WCYB.
“Wild populations are silently slipping into extinction, with 40 per cent of the wild giraffe population lost in just the last three decades.”
The zoo is allowing visitors to have a say in choosing a name for the baby giraffe in a contest on its Facebook page. The suggested names on the list include Kipekee, the Swahili word for unique, Firyali, which means unusual or extraordinary, Shakiri which means “she is most beautiful”, and Jamella, “one of great beauty”.
The birth comes after the loss of two rare all-white giraffes in 2020, at the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in Ijara, Garissa County, Kenya. The giraffes had leucism, which is a genetic condition that causes the partial loss of pigmentation. While travelling in a family as a group of three, two were killed by poachers (a calf and a female), leaving her son behind. He is now thought to be the only all-white giraffe in the world, and has been fitted with a GPS tracker, to deter poachers.