Confirming that they can exist quite happily among other wildlife, a rare “blonde” zebra has been spotted in the Serengeti National Park.
While Sergio Pitamitz was photographing migrating zebra for National Geographic in Tanzania, he managed to catch a glimpse of white between the black and white herd.
This is when he saw it. An unusually gold and white animal stepped forward for a drink from a nearby watering hole.
“At first I thought it was a zebra that had rolled in the dust,” Pitamitz told National Geographic. But the “dust” didn’t wash off in the water, and he realized what he was looking at.
It seems the zebra was partially albino, the genetic condition that indicates a lack of melanin – the dark pigment in ski, hair and fur. Recorded in many different animals, the opposite, melanism occurs regularly in big cats, occasionally in other species.
In zebras however, it’s extremely rare and despite reported sightings, this is the first time it’s been documented in the wild, unsure if they could even survive.
It has recently been proven that they can in fact coexist quite happily as their patterning has been proven to ward off biting flies, rather than offer camouflage.
The vulnerability comes in when a herd rejects an animal that looks different and safety in numbers is what keeps prey species alive. This guy however seems just fine.
It is thought that aside from sound and smell, zebras actually identify each other by their stripes. Each one’s pattern as unique as our finger prints. After all, melanistic and even spotted zebras have been seen in the wild.
A blonde zebra named Zoe who lived at the Three Ring Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Hawaii was long thought to be the only of her kind until she passed away in 2017, but there now roams a small herd of blonde zebras on a privately owned reserve in Mount Kenya National Park, most likely bred for their color.
Three species of zebra exist today – the plains zebra, mountain zebra and Grevy’s zebra, all slightly different. It is thought that they all evolved with slightly different markings and those differences don’t hinder them, along with this now photographic proof that albinism may be slightly more common than we thought.
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