What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a zebra? Stripes of course! Okay, maybe you thought of Africa or the Lion King, but stripes are up there, right? Well, this adorable baby was born without them! In an ultra-rare spectacle, a wildlife photographer caught the foal on camera, and couldn’t believe his eyes at first.
The baby zebra has spots instead of stripes! At first, photographer Antony Tira genuinely didn’t believe what he was seeing but took photos anyway. He thought that perhaps rangers painted it in order to keep track of it or something.
But, he soon realised that he was watching a baby zebra with the rare melanin disorder. This is the opposite of being born albino and results in the animal being much darker pigmented than usual. That’s how this baby came about with its gorgeous spots.
However, zebra don’t just have their stripes to look nice. The stripes actually help regulate the temperature in the sweltering desert heat. Especially in the Masai Mara, where this photo was taken, it can get incredibly hot for a zebra just standing outside nibbling grass. As such, this little ‘un might struggle.
“Zebra have a need to keep foraging throughout the day, which keeps them out in the open more of the time than other animals,” said researcher Ren Larison. “An additional cooling mechanism could be very useful under these circumstances.”
The stripes are also useful for camoflage from predators. This brings us to the unfortunate news. Zebra with this recessive gene generally don’t live for more than six months.
“If this is true, it means that the herd itself is a successful one, even though the foals are not surviving to adulthood,” said photographer and expert Matthew Copham. “Unfortunately, zebras which stand out from the others too much do become a target.”
However, this adorable baby is just a week old, so we hope with all our hearts that he can mature into an adult safely. Let us know what you think of this incredible and beautiful spotted zebra in the comments.