Zebras are such a unique looking animal because of their stripes. That is part of what makes them so intriguing to people. It’s their signature design. But one little zebra named Tira was born not with stripes but with polka dots instead. She has quickly become an internet sensation.
Tira was first spotted last Friday by Anotony Tira, a guide at the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. The next day Tira was photographed by Frank Liu. The photos are stunning!
Liu was actually out to look for Rhinos that day, but he saw Tira instead. “I felt like I was looking at a different species,” Liu said. “He was beautiful and really stood out amongst the zebras. I wasn’t able to keep my eyes off of him during the whole sighting.”
Tira is staying close to her mother as any foal, especially a wild one should. But he didn’t seem to mind being photographed. “There were other herd members around and did not seem to mind him too much,” Liu said.
Tira’s polka dots is because of a genetic mutation, according to Brenda Larison, a zebra expert, and professor at UCLA.
“This particular variation is pretty uncommon, but they do pop up from time to time,” Larison explained. “I’ve seen several photos of this type over the years.”
At first, all was calm when Liu first saw Tira, but it didn’t take long for others to notice this unique zebra. “I was only there with another vehicle when I arrived,” Liu said. “About half an hour later, there were a dozen vehicles rushing in from all directions. That’s when I decided it was time to leave Tira alone.”
“A likely function of zebra herds, possibly enhanced by their stripes, is safety from predators due to predator confusion, sometimes called the dazzle effect,” Larison said. “It makes it hard for predators to target an individual. It is easier for predators to target oddballs because they stand out in the group.”
For now, Tira is under the spotlight of the world. Let’s hope that’s enough to keep her safe from harm’s way.