A baby reticulated giraffe at a Tennessee zoo made international headlines last month when word got out that she was born without her spots. It was thought to be the only living giraffe in the world to hold the title — that is, until a wild spotless giraffe was, well, spotted at a reserve in Africa.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation announced in a Monday news release that the spotless giraffe was found roaming around the Mount Etjo Safari Lodge, a private game reserve in Namibia. The foundation says the Angolan giraffe is the first ever spotless giraffe found in the wild.
“Before the discovery of the Namibian spotless Angolan giraffe, there were only two records of such [a] brown giraffe, both in zoos in Japan in 1972 and most recently in the USA,” the news release says.
Giraffes are born at 6 feet tall and with a unique set of spots, meaning no two giraffes have the same coat pattern. As for babies born without spots? Scientists aren’t quite sure.
Julian Fennessy, the foundation’s co-founder and director of conservation, said in the news release that “The lack of spots could be caused by genetic mutations or recessive genotype in one or more genes related to the pattern, but without detailed genetic analysis, these are mere speculations.”
Kipekee, which means “unique” in Swahili, is the spotless baby giraffe who was born on July 31 at Brights Zoo in Tennessee. She is a reticulated giraffe that is found in northern and northeastern Kenya, and possibly parts of southern Somalia and southern Ethiopia, according to the foundation.
The giraffe found in Namibia is an Angolan giraffe, which make up about half of Africa’s giraffe population, and are found in central Botswana and most parts of Namibia, with scattered populations throughout Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, seven of the nine subspecies of giraffes are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, many of which are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation says there are approximately 117,000 giraffes in Africa, which means there’s only one giraffe for every four African elephants left in the wild.