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A rare spotless giraffe was born in a Tennessee zoo

A reticulated giraffe was born without spots at Brights Zoo in northeastern Tennessee at the end of July. The zoo is asking the public to cast their vote on what to name her.
Tony Bright
Brights Zoo via AP
A reticulated giraffe was born without spots at Brights Zoo in northeastern Tennessee at the end of July. The zoo is asking the public to cast their vote on what to name her.

A female reticulated giraffe was born at Brights Zoo in northeastern Tennessee late last month — but unlike her mother she was born without any spots, a rarity.

Standing 14 to 15 feet tall, giraffes are the tallest mammals in the world. When mothers give birth, the calves are already 6 feet tall, and other than on especially rare occasions, they're born covered from hoof to horn in brown spots. Brights Zoo in Limestone, Tenn., announced that it welcomed the birth of a reticulated giraffe without any spots on July 31, WJHL 11 News reported.

"Giraffe experts believe she is the only solid-colored reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet," the zoo told WJHL.

The zoo's director, David Bright, said zoo staff have been reaching out to zoo professionals across the country inquiring about how rare the giraffe could be. So far, zoo officials say the only record of a reticulated giraffe being born without spots was in Japan in the 1970s.

Pictures of the calf can be seen on the Brights Zoo Facebook page, standing next to her mother in stark contrast without her spots. The zoo is asking the public to help name the newborn by voting on one of four names available on the zoo's Facebook page by Labor Day.

The Swahili names and their meanings are: Kipekee, meaning unique; Firali, which means unusual or extraordinary; Shakiri, meaning she is most beautiful; and Jamella, which means one of great beauty.

Bright told WJHL that the zoo looked at thousands of names and their meanings before settling on the four available to vote on. "Those four are the four the family are all really attached to," Bright said. "So if she's named one of those four, we're very happy."

Votes will be tallied and announced on Sept. 4.

According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, there are only an estimated 16,000 reticulated giraffes left in the wild — a more than 50% drop from approximately 36,000 giraffes 35 years ago. There are approximately 117,000 giraffes across four species and nine subspecies, many of which are designated vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.

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