The birth of a newborn giraffe is always exciting news, but there’s something especially unique about the baby giraffe who recently arrived at a zoo in Tennessee: she doesn’t have any spots.
The trait is so rare that giraffe experts believe the newborn is the only solid-colored reticulated giraffe in the world, according to the Brights Zoo.
The baby giraffe arrived on July 31; the zoo said the unique newborn was “thriving” in her mother’s care, per WJHL. The newborn is already standing tall at 6 feet.
“Her numbers compared identically to the giraffe that was born two weeks prior to that, so we felt good. Each day she gets stronger,” zoo founder Tony Bright said in a press release.
Giraffes have the third-largest newborns in the animal kingdom, behind only blue whales and elephants, averaging about 165 pounds. After the long gestation period, baby giraffes enter the world already pretty fully-formed, and start taking their first wobbly steps within an hour of birth.
Zoo staff quickly noticed the baby’s unique pattern, and contacted experts to find out just how rare it was — and soon discovered their newborn was one-of-a-kind.
“From day one we’ve been in contact with zoo professionals all over the country,” Bright said. “And especially the old timers, that have been around for a long time, ‘Hey, have you seen this? What’s your thoughts?’ And nobody’s seen it.”
According to CBS News, the last recorded spotless giraffe was born in 1972 at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.
There are no known cases of patternless giraffes in the wild, where populations have been dwindling. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, reticulated giraffes have been listed as endangered since 2018, with an estimated 16,000 individuals in the wild.
The zoo hopes the publicity around their unique giraffe will draw attention to the need for giraffe conservation efforts.
“The international coverage of our patternless baby giraffe has created a much-needed spotlight on giraffe conservation,” Tony Bright said. “Wild populations are silently slipping into extinction, with 40% of the wild giraffe population lost in just the last 3 decades.”
He also said that it’s a good thing the newborn was born in captivity — her spotless pattern would’ve made her a greater target for predators.
“In the wild, they use those spots for camouflage,” Bright explained. “By being solid colored, she may not be able to hide quite as well.”
Update: Giraffe doing well, has a new name
Weeks after the exciting news about this one-of-a-kind giraffe broke, the zoo has given an update and revealed a fitting name.
A naming contest was held through labor day; the public could vote on one of four names. After 40,000 votes cast from fans around the world, David Bright revealed the new name on Today.
The spotless giraffe will be named “Kipekee,” a name meaning “unique,” which is certainly fitting for this rare beauty. The name received 36% of the vote, ahead of picks like “Jamella” (meaning “one of great beauty) and “Shakira” (meaning “she is most beautiful.)
Speaking on Today, Bright speculated that Kipekee won because it was the “easiest name for a child to say.”
He says that Kipekee is already 6 feet tall and doing well, curious about the world around her. “She’s still very laid back, curious about everything, checking everything out every day.”
Kipekee is one beautiful and unique giraffe! Please share this exciting news if you love animals! ❤️🦒
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