Talk about a head-turner: An extremely rare white giraffe calf was recently spotted in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park.
Scientists at the New Hampshire-based wildlife-research group Wild Nature Institute originally reported the newborn Masai giraffe calf in 2015, around the time a local tour guide named her Omo, after a popular local brand of detergent.
Omo is leucistic, which means she still has pigment in her soft tissues, such as her eyes, but not her skin cells.
Staff at the Wild Nature Institute were happy to see Omo still thriving during a recent foray to the national park, located in the northeastern part of the country.
“We were lucky enough to re-sight her again this January, almost exactly one year later. We are thrilled that she is still alive and well,” the organization wrote on its blog. It's also soliciting votes for a new name, or to keep Omo as her moniker.
Omo isn't albino; she has a genetic condition called leucism, says Derek Lee, founder of the institute. Her skin cells don’t produce pigmentation, but soft tissues, such as her dark eyes, do.
Omo has been especially lucky: More than half of all giraffe calves die before they’re six months old, as they're often targets of lions, hyenas, and wild dogs, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Not to mention, Omo’s obvious appearance could attract predators all the more, hampering her chances of survival.
Omo is lucky to have survived her first year of life. Giraffe calves are a favourite meal for many predators, and her pale colour probably makes her more conspicuous to predators.
What’s more, Tarangire National Park is working to ensure that Omo’s rare coloration doesn’t put her in poachers’ crosshairs.
The park already has a sophisticated anti-poaching program in place that relies on everything from unmanned drones to tracker dogs to defend its wildlife—including this one very special giraffe.
By Michael Greshko
Images by Derek Lee, Caters News