The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is among the most visited tourist destinations in East Africa. The park is famous around the world for its rich wildlife. In recent times, the Mara has continued to attract international attention. This is because I have spotted rare zebra species in there. In October 2019, a golden zebra was seen in the Mara and was about a week old at the time. Its body is mostly golden in color but it has a striped neck, head, legs and tail.
The zebra is likely to be suffering from a condition called amelanism. The condition is a pigmentation abnormality that makes the animal lack color pigments called melanin.
John Maine Kipas, a worker at the Mara, discovered the foal while he was taking tourists around the reserve. He found it among other zebras and wildebeests migrating towards the Serengeti. Maine says he named the zebra after him (Maine Zebra) since he was the first to spot it.
He said when he first saw the zebra, it looked more like a donkey.
“It was a normal morning game drive and that is when we spotted the rare-colored foal. At some point, I could not believe my eyes. I clicked my camera and got some pictures of it. It looks more like a donkey than a zebra.”
Not so long before that, there were sights of a zebra foal with polka dots. A tour guide and photographer at Maasai Mara, Anthony Tira, spotted it and took photos of it.
The Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association first shared the photos on their Facebook page and they have since gone viral. Tira said the foal was hardly a week old when he took photos of it and that it has a melanin disorder. He says he was confused when he first saw it.
“At first I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of migration. I was confused when I first saw it.”
According to Matira Camp Wildlife specialist, there has never been any recorded case of such a rare zebra in Maasai Mara. The specialist also said that none of the zebras with such a condition in other game parks in Africa has lived beyond six months after birth.
Tira migrated to the Serengeti in the neighboring country of Tanzania. This prompted Maine to ask the authorities to guard the ‘blonde’ zebra so there would be no repeat of such an occurrence. Researchers said that animals living with such conditions are at a high risk of developing problems such as poor night vision, kidney problems and even worse, skin cancer.
Mwakuli Tours spotted and photographed yet another golden zebra at the Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. Another group of partially albino zebras live on a private reserve in Mount Kenya National Park. According to Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the sighting shows that the genetic variant responsible for partial albinism may be more available in and around Kenya than many people thought before.