A reticulated baby giraffe at Brights Zoo in Limestone, Tennessee, is garnering worldwide attention due to her unusual looks. The female, born on July 31, 2023, lacks her characteristic patches. Instead, she has a plain brown coat. The zoo's officials believe she might be the "only solid-colored reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet."
The newborn is the fourth offspring of nine-year-old Shenna. Experts believe the animal's rare coloring is probably due to a genetic mutation. Zoo officials are glad the spotless animal was born in captivity. That's because patches are necessary for giraffes in the wild. They help the animals blend in with their surroundings, protecting them from predators.
The public can help name the newborn by voting on Brights Zoo's Facebook page by September 4, 2023. The choices include Kipekee, the Swahili word for "unique," and Firyali, which means "unusual" or "extraordinary." There is also Shakiri ("she is most beautiful") and Jamella ("one of great beauty").
Reticulated giraffes are one of four distinct species of giraffes. They have large brown patches separated by cream-colored lines on their coats. The animals were once a common sight across East Africa. However, their numbers have dropped by almost 60 percent — from 36,000 to just 16,000 — over the past three decades.
The overall giraffe population in the wild has also declined by over 40 percent to just about 117,000. The decrease is being attributed to habitat loss, poaching, and Africa's ongoing drought. Brights Zoo officials hope the unusual-looking newborn will help shine a light on the animal's plight.
"This special giraffe's birth is remarkable for many reasons, but maybe most importantly, it will help bring attention to the serious challenges the rest of her species face in the wild," the zoo said in a press release.
Resources: Washingtonpost.com, nationalgeographic.com, nbcnews.com