The "polka dot" baby zebra has become an overnight sensation on social media, with fans all around the world rooting for its survival.
At Matira Bush Camp in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, photographers spotted a rare an unusual baby zebra born with spots instead of stripes. Since first being posted on the internet, the photos have gone viral, touching the hearts of many. Not only is the baby zebra absolutely adorable, but it's also being praised as a genetic marvel. Some have even taken to calling it a "polka dot" zebra. The photographs were taken by Rahul Sachdev and Antony Tira, who is also a tour guide. Wildlife specialists have commented on how rare the fur pattern is, Nation.co.ke reports.
Rare baby zebra born in Kenya's Masai Mara. There’s not a stripe in sight! https://t.co/idiwN9V586— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) September 17, 2019
In an interview with Nation, Tira stated, "At first I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of migration. I was confused when I first saw it." However, upon closer observation, he realized that it was a zebra with a so-called melanin disorder. The zebra was very weak and different from typical baby zebras, he noted. At hardly a week old, the foal remained close, almost stuck, to a female adult zebra, supposedly its mother. When the baby zebra was first discovered, it caused much excitement. Tourists, photographers, tour guides, and tour drivers rushed to the lookout area in order to catch a glimpse of the unusual animal.
A unique spotted zebra foal was first seen on the Maasai Mara Reserve Kenya, by a Maasai guide on the weekend. Named Tira, this zebra will be a star! A very unusual and completely beautiful genetic mutation!— Xpose Trophy Hunting (@XposeTrophyHunt) September 16, 2019
Photo credits: frankliuphotography photo 2&3
RS Photography: photos 1&4 pic.twitter.com/yma71791kH
As per a wildlife specialist at Matira Camp Parmale Lemein, such a zebra has never been discovered before. The expert did point out, however, that other zebras with the same condition were spotted in parks across the continent of Africa. Amazingly, despite their melanin disorder, they had survived for more than six months after birth. The reason why this particular foal's survival has come under question is that the high levels of pigmentation in the foal's genetic makeup can affect its ability to regulate temperature. According to a certain theory from research by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), "The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live."
I just found this article on the foal One expert suggests it might be a melatonin disorder, and the foal won’t live past 6 months. I suppose we will have to wait and see, and hope for this unique beauty. Sam https://t.co/QIO4jAroa2— Xpose Trophy Hunting (@XposeTrophyHunt) September 16, 2019
Thomas B. Smith, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the UCLA College and senior author of the research study stated, "While past studies have typically focused their search for single mechanisms, we illustrate in this study how the cause of this extraordinary phenomenon is actually likely much more complex than previously appreciated, with temperature playing an important role." Hopefully, this little guy will make it past six months. After all, he's got a whole family all around the world rooting for his survival.