Wildlife experts investigate strangely coloured Zebra

18Sep 2019
Marc Nkwame
ARUSHA
The Guardian
Wildlife experts investigate strangely coloured Zebra

TANZANIA wildlife experts are working with their Kenyan counterparts to understand a strange coloured young zebra found in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

This strange-looking young zebra was sighted in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve recently, and wildlife experts in Tanzania are working together with counterparts across the border to establish the factors behind its rare characteristics. Photo: Agencies

While zebras are known for their black and white stripes, this one has all-black body with some white spots, becoming the latest sensation in East African Wildlife reports.

Arusha-based Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) principal researcher Dr Edward Koyi stated here that they have contacted their Kenyan counterparts to track and establish the whereabouts of the strangely coloured zebra, admitting it was the first such incident to be recorded in the Serengeti eco-system.

Asked whether the new black and spotted zebra baby is part of the ungulates’ migration from Tanzania currently roaming in Maasai Mara, Dr Koyi said they will also find out about this.

“We have ways of tracing the migratory zebras and setting them apart from the residential ones through stealth homing devises, therefore once the wildlife experts get to Maasai Mara tomorrow we shall have all the answers,” the TAWIRI consultant noted.

Commenting on the photos of the rare zebra circulating online, Dr Koyi pointed out that the report is also subject to verification, as with advanced technology anything can be created.

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner for Conservation and Business Development for Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), William Mwakilema who once served as chief warden for Serengeti, said that the black and spotted zebra was indeed a rare case.

“But it is possible; this could be a form of genetic mutation,” he said.

Asked if the zebra calf could be part of the wild animals from Serengeti currently roaming into Maasai Mara in the 2019 migration, Mwakilema wasn’t sure either.

“The zebras and wildebeests that migrate usually have synchronized calving seasons and this occurs every February south of the Serengeti and north of the Ngorongoro Conservation area. So if the zebra was calved recently, chances are it is among the resident species that don’t migrate,” he explained.

The rare zebra calf was discovered last Sunday by a tour guide known as Antony Tira, working with Matira Bush Camp in Maasai Mara, as freelance photographer.

When he spotted the black dotted foal, photographer Tira initially thought it was purposely painted for migration oriented research, because at the moment nearly two million wildebeests and zebras from the Serengeti happen to be in Maasai Mara.

“I was observing the game reserve near the Mara River, when I came across this young black zebra with white dots instead of stripes,” the tour guide cum photographer was quoted as affirming.

There was stampede as tourists, campers, hotel guests and guides in Maasai Mara flocked to get a glimpse of the newly-born zebra foal with unusual polka dot markings, the first of its kind to be seen in the Maasai Mara, a part of the Serengeti eco-system.

On closer inspection, most observers realised that the young foal - which remained close to its mother – possibly had a melanin disorder. Melanism - the opposite of albinism - is caused by a build-up of dark pigmented melanin in the skin.

The 2019 trip of the annual Serengeti Wildebeests migration is currently combing the northern parts of the eco-system, especially Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and the nearly 1.5 million ungulates will be traversing back by October.

If the rare Zebra was born amid the Serengeti migration, then the young mammal should be returning the Serengeti alongside other ungulates next month, in case Kenyan Wildlife Authorities do not cling to the baby zebra.