An exceptionally rare white giraffe was seen at Tarangire National Park in Tanzania on Jan. 16.
The giraffe calf has a disorder, leucism, which results in the loss of pigmentation. “Her body surface cells are not capable of making pigment, but she is not an albino,” explained the Wild Nature Institute in a blog post.
A guide dubbed the giraffe “Omo” after a local brand of laundry detergent.
Specialists at the Wild Nature Institute first noticed Omo last year. “We were lucky enough to resight her again this January, almost exactly one year later,” the institute said.“We are thrilled that she is still alive and well.”
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Leucism happens when some or all pigment cells fail to mature during separation, so part or all of the animal’s body exterior lacks cells capable of creating pigment.
“One way to tell the difference between albino and leucistic animals is that albino individuals lack melanin everywhere, including in the eyes, so the resulting eye color is red from the underlying blood vessels,” said Wild Nature Institute.
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“Leucism is simply a rare genetic condition -- drawing four aces in a row from a deck of cards is also a rare occurrence,” Derek Lee, quantitative ecologist at the Wild Nature Institute, told Fox News. “Whether a mutation affecting coloration, such as leucism, is adaptive or not over evolutionary time will require continued observations.”
Omo’s strange coloring has raised concerns she could become a target for poachers.