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A Rare Baby Zebra With Spots Instead Of Stripes Spotted In Kenya

Susie Steck

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  • Photographer Frank Liu captured a rare zebra bearing spots instead of stripes on its skin.
  • The polka-dotted zebra in Kenya is said to have a “rare pigment” condition called “pseudomelanism”.
  • The baby zebra became Kenya’s online sensation, boosting the country’s tourism industry.

Nature photographer Frank Liu recently shared a n Instagram picture of a rare zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots in Kenya. Tira, the unique zebra foal was found in the now popular Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Liu said Tira’s unique color could be recorded as the first of its kind in the Masai Mara. However, similar-white-dotted zebra foals can also be seen in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

This unique appearance on zebra foals is a called “pseudomelanism” reported the National Geographic.

“At first glance he looked like a different species altogether,” Liu said, adding that he went to Kenya to search for rhinos.

Biologist Ren Larison explained that pseudomelanism is a “rare genetic mutation” in animals where they appear to have some “sort of” abnormality in stripe pattern. Larison is currently studying the evolution of zebra stripes at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Here are more photos taken by different nature photographers:

A Maasai guide spotted first the male foal and called it “Tira”.

Larison said that Tira’s future is likely unknown. He explained that most zebras with melanism condition “probably” do not survive long.

“Research on other species has shown that, while it is harder for a predator to target an individual in a group, it is easier if an individual is different,” Larison said.

Ratish Nair also went to Kenya to see the rare white-dotted zebra

In his Instagram post, he wrote:

“Melanism, as we all know is a rare condition in animals that create some interesting looking animals.”

“Some time back when I had first posted the picture of Tira, the spotted Zebra, I had touched upon melanism as a topic as it interested me. The handsome boy TIRA is stunning to a human eye,” Nair said.

“I was one of the last few [if not the last person] to witness Tira in his habitat with his mom before he was translocated to Tanzania for safety reasons,” Nair added.

View this post on Instagram

Melanism in Animals Some time back when I had first posted the picture of Tira – The Spotted Zebra, I had touched upon melanism as a topic as it interested me. The handsome boy TIRA [in picture today] is stunning to a human eye. Interesting fact: TIRA was named after a very popular Tracker/ Guide in the mara, Anthony Tira who first spotted him playing with his mother. Today, let me try and introduce melanism in some detail. Melanism, as we all know is a rare condition in animals that create some interesting looking animals. The increased development of the dark-coloured pigment not just in the hair/ fur of the animal but also skin is referred to as melanism. Opposite of this condition is called Albinism where a certain trait when inherited, interrupts the production of the dark coloured pigment and this results in stunning white animals. Melanism can create all-black animals that are so beautiful, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Melanism is most common in cats, more popularly the jaguars and leopards [commonly referred as black panthers]. While most ‘melanistic’ animals become less conspicuous to predators, the black panther uses this to his advantage for hunting in the dark. The term “black panther,” is a blanket term used to describe a dark leopard or jaguar. According to Discovery, only around 6 percent of the world's big cats are born with melanism. Nature has its own ways of creating wonders and they are just beautiful to watch in the wild in their own habitat. I was one of the last few [if not the last person] to witness Tira in his habitat with his mom before he was translocated to Tanzania for safety reasons. . . . . . ##safariwithecotrailz #ecotrailztribe #ecotrailzwildlifer #ecotrailz #color #zebra #instagood #photography #beautiful #colour #travel #wildlifephotography #photographer #picoftheday #bigcats #sanctuaryasia #wildindia #conservation #naturelovers #wildlifeplanet #bbcwildlife #wildlife #earthcapture #yourshotphotographer #animalsofinstagram #spottedzebra @sonybbcearth @earthpix @earthfocus @earthofficial @nikonasia @ranthamborepark

A post shared by Ratish Nair | Wildlife (@rattyperspective) on

Nair said Melanism is most common in cats, but most popular among jaguars and leopards.

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