Whenever you think of zebras, you usually think of their distinctive black-and-white striped pattern. However, the internet has been graced by one of nature’s rarities on a nature reserve. Recently, a baby zebra was born in Kenya with spots, and it has taken the Internet by storm.
A photographer, Antony Tira, captured some pictures of this rare foal at the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, Africa. When he first saw the unique zebra, dubbed the “blacker” zebra, Tira thought that the foal was painted for migration purposes. “Blacker” zebras are incredibly rare because it is caused by melanism, which means that dark-colored pigmentation develops in the fur. Since this foal is so incredibly rare, people have been wondering how the gene mutation occurred. Some people have proposed that the momma zebra spent some quality time with an antelope, a wildebeest, a hyena, a leopard, or a tapir. We don’t know the cause of the gene mutation, it is suspected to be the consequence of a recessive gene. Scientists know a lot about zebras in general and how this little foal’s life may be drastically different than its mom.
Stripes Vs. Spots
There’s a common cliche about zebras: “Are they white with black stripes or black with white stripes?” We know that striped zebras are the norm, and we now know that on the rare occasion, spotted zebras are born. So, that brings an even more important question, “Why do zebras have stripes in the first place?” Apparently, these stripes are for more than fun patterns; scientists believe that the lines in their fur help zebras stay cool while they’re eating their lunch. Zebras need temperature regulation since they digest food less efficiently than other African animals. Since their digestion systems are inefficient, they have to spend more time grazing in the hot African sun. Other scientists hypothesize that stripes help zebras camouflage themselves or keep flies at bay. Luckily, this little zebra probably won’t have to deal with predation since it lives on a reserve. However, that doesn’t mean that the foal’s life is going to be easy, or particularly long. A wildlife specialist says that no other zebras with melanism in African parks have survived for more than six months after birth.
Many people on Facebook have been commenting on this unique zebra. Users have been focusing on how cute the zebra is, such as Linda Thomas Akkerman who commented, “What an adorable little creature!!” Nila Long said, “She is Beautiful; make sure to take care of her.” Other people are worried about the health and condition of the foal. Still, other Facebook users were worried about keeping the zebra safe from outside harm. Sherry Keifer Jacobs said, “I don’t care what the odds are, if there is a little bit of hope that they make it…maybe if people (hunters) would leave them alone, they just might make it!” These Facebook comments show just how much people are enamored with this rare little zebra, and people’s desire to protect it from outside harm.
Despite the crazy theories of the zebra’s parents, we can safely assume that there was no cross-breeding to create this incredible foal and only thank nature for allowing us to see such a rarity. Although this spotted foal is incredibly cute and taking over the internet, the little zebra may be missing some of the important advantages of having stripes. Either way, people are going to want to see even more pictures of this adorable animal growing up to become a happy, spotted adult!
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