Brights Zoo in Limestone, Tennessee is celebrating the birth of a very unusual baby giraffe. What makes this giraffe special is that it doesn’t have any spots. The zoo is asking for help from the public to name the unique animal.
Tall, long-necked giraffes are famous for their spots. The spots are believed to help the animals hide from their enemies. The skin beneath the spots may also help giraffes stay at the right temperature. Just like no two humans have the same fingerprints, each giraffe has its own special pattern of spots.
Unless, of course, it doesn’t have any spots. On July 31, a baby giraffe was born at Bright’s Zoo with no spots at all. Instead, its fur is a light brown. The giraffe is a reticulated giraffe, which is one of the four different kinds of giraffes. It was born perfectly healthy. It just doesn’t have any spots.
David Bright, who runs the zoo, told Newsweek, “This is beyond rare. The last time this happened was 1972 in Japan.” Currently, the young giraffe is believed to be the only spotless giraffe in the world.
The young giraffe is a girl. Giraffes are born quite large. This one isn’t quite a month old, and she’s already about 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall. Mr. Bright says she’s very sweet, and has a “laid back” personality.
A giraffe’s pattern of spots is created when the animal is still growing inside its mother. That means that this giraffe will never have spots.
Mr. Bright says that the new giraffe might not have survived if she had been born in the wild. “Being solid colored, she may not be able to hide quite as well,” said Mr. Bright. He also thought it was likely that the giraffe would be a “key target for poachers” because she’s so unusual.
Reticulated giraffes are already struggling. In 2018, they were officially listed as “threatened”. Thirty-five years ago, there were 36,000 reticulated giraffes. Now, those numbers have been cut by more than 50%. Only about 16,000 reticulated giraffes remain.
Brights Zoo is hoping to use the young spotless giraffe to bring attention to efforts to protect giraffes. Mr. Bright says the zoo hopes to raise money for groups like Save Giraffes Now and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
So far, the young giraffe has not been given a name. Mr. Bright says that his family has considered thousands of names, and has come up with four possible choices. All of the names are in Swahili, a language spoken in parts of Africa.
Now the zoo is asking people to vote for their favorite name. Here are the names, along with what they mean in English:
- Kipekee – Unique
- Firyali – Unusual or Extraordinary
- Shakiri – She is most beautiful
- Jamella – One of great beauty
The zoo will announce the winning name on September 4.
Update: The young giraffe has been given the name Kipekee.
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