On Sunday, 15 September at Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya, a Maasai guide came across a Zebra harem and a baby foal unlike any he has seen before. He gave the foal his family name, Tira.
Although physically resembling a zebra, the foal’s coat however, has none of the zebra’s distinctive white and black stripes. Instead, the foals has a short, hairless tail and sports an unusual dark brown coat with white polka dot like markings. Hopefully Tira will not be ostracized by the herd for being different.
This is not the first case of a genetically mutate zebra foal found in Kenya. In 2012, photographer Paul Goldstein photographed another zebra with elongated spots on its back which seemed to have been rejected by the herd.
Zebra stripes are thought to be part of their defense against prey, creating visual confusion in terms of the size of the herd. A mare’s markings imprint on her foal at birth, enable the foal to distinguish her from the rest of the herd. Research by the University of California, Los Angeles, suggest that the stripes may help regulate their body temperature.
Usually, between July and August, around two million animals, including zebra, migrate from the Serengeti National Park to the Maasai National park as part of Kenya’s annual Great Migration.