A newborn zebra with unusual polka dots has been photographed in Kenya – the first of its kind to be seen in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Antony Tira, a tour guide and photographer at Matira Bush Camp, spotted the black dotted foal while observing the park’s game reserve near the Mara River.
He told the Daily Nation he initially thought the newborn zebra had been captured and marked “for migration purposes”.
Antony Tira, a tour guide and photographer at Matira Bush Camp, spotted the black dotted pony (pictured) while observing a game reserve near the Mara River in Kenya
However, upon closer inspection, the photographer realized that the foal – who was still close to his mother – had a disorder of melanin pigmentation.
‘At first, I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for migration purposes. I was so confused when I first saw it,’ he said.
Melanism – the opposite of albinism – is caused by the accumulation of melanin in the skin.
The photographer said he initially thought the newborn zebra had been captured and marked ‘for migration purposes’
However, upon closer examination, Mr Tira realized that the foal – who was still close to his mother – had a disorder of melanin pigmentation.
As the Star reported, a melanistic zebra is one whose stripes don’t develop properly. Instead, they have a pattern of small stripes and spots across their skin.
Photographs of the rare pony have captured newborn baby dots on its neck and chest. Zebras also have a completely black back and thin white stripes on their legs.
It is reported that a ‘s.tampede’ was inflicted in the Maasai Mara National Reserve due to the discovery as tourists and guides flocked to the park to observe the rare zebra.
Parmale Lemein, a wildlife expert at Matira Camp, said there has never been a recorded case in the Maasai Mara of a zebra showing rare markings.
However, he said, melanistic zebras have been spotted in other parks in Africa – none have survived six months.
The photos were also shared by popular blogger Mutuma Untamed, who said the ‘week old’ foal had been named after the photographer who discovered it.
On Facebook, he wrote: ‘Did you know that a Maasai guide spotted a one-of-a-kind hybrid zebra crossbreed in the Maasai Mara last week. It is named after his last name – Tira.
‘There was a similar case a few years ago, however, that zebra still maintained its stripes and brush-like tail.
“Tira is rare, but has a pattern that appears like polka dots.”