Rarity is a double-edged sword. There are certain privileges that come with being unique, especially, as seems to be the case of Omo, being one of a kind. There are hazards as well. Thankfully for Omo the giraffe, conservationists and researchers are working overtime to try and help make Omo’s life a long and healthy one. Omo, as far as anyone knows, is the only giraffe in the world with a condition known as leucism. It’s a rare genetic condition. Rare enough to be nearly non-existent in giraffe-dom. It occurs in many species, but always with some degree of infrequency. Ordinarily it results in a fairly light coloration. Due perhaps to giraffes already being pretty unusual-looking animals, the nearly-white fur couple which the shockingly red mane is causing heads to turn all over the Internet.
When was the last time you saw an animal this strikingly beautiful? If she were human, you might expect to see her fronting a punk rock band or some other creative endeavor.
He’s been getting a ton of attention from more specific groups of people as well. Nature researchers and conservationists.
He was quickly named Omo, which it turns out, quite humorously, is actually the name of a brand of laundry detergent in the region. I wonder how Omo would feel about her name if she knew?
The reason he’s been getting so much attention is because researchers are worried about her getting even more attention from some less-positive sources.
You see, Omo’s unique appearance may make her a bigger target for natural predators. According to Dr. Derek Lee, an ecologist, “The first year of life is very dangerous for wild giraffes because they are small enough to be killed and eaten by lions, hyenas, and leopards, Only about 50% of calves born survive their first year.” And those are the figures for normal giraffes! Without the same kind of camouflage-like patterning, Omo may stand out more to a predator’s vision. There is also an even greater concern from an even more dangerous animal, however. Human poachers could see Omo as an enticing trophy, with her unique fur color making for a very valuable pelt. Ordinary giraffes are already a threatened species due to poaching and encroachment thinning their numbers at a terrible rate. Other poachers might simply target her for bushmeat, with the same reasons as a lion. She’s easier to spot and stalk in the wild. It would be an incredible shame to lose such a unique creature simply because she was easier to kill. As such, teams of people are working to protect Omo the giraffe from this human threat. Using drones, manned patrols, even sophisticated tracking cameras, researchers and conservationists are keeping close watch on Omo in hopes of allowing a natural existence for her and the possibility of surviving to sire her own calves. To their credit, the other giraffes in Omo’s social circle seem to have fully accepted her and don’t appear to be treating her any differently. That might be a lesson giraffes could teach a few of us!
We certainly hope that despite any potential threats and any other hazards nature can muster, that Omo has a long and fulfilling giraffe life, full of fun giraffe games, tasty giraffe food and sweet giraffe dreams.
If you’d like to learn more about giraffes, the conservation efforts led by Dr. Lee and his wife, or even the pretty incredible technology they use to identify and track individual giraffes by their fur patterns, you can visit the Project: GIRAFFE website for all the information you could want on these subjects and more.
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