A very special snowflake

Photo credit: Derek Lee

Omo, a Masai giraffe, was first spotted last year in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Although white, she isn’t an albino; she has leucism, a genetic condition which leads to a lack of pigmentation in her skin. Her eyes, unlike an albino’s, are dark, and she does have some normal colouring, especially in her mane, tail and lower legs.

Omo, now a little over 12 months old, was spotted again earlier this year by Dr Derek Lee, founder of the Wild Nature Institute, who noted she seemed to have been accepted by the herd (not always the case for animals with albinism or leucism). She’s done well to survive for a year, given that half of all giraffe calves die before they’re six months old, especially since her pale skin makes her even more susceptible to predators. Worse, her rare colouring may make her more of a target for poachers.

Leucism is uncommon, but partial leucism is less so. We even have a name for it when it occurs, as it often does, in horses, cows, dogs and cats: ‘pied’.

To find out more about the research, education and conservation efforts of the Wild Nature Institute, go to their  website.


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