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Welcome, Kipekee!

When we think of a giraffe, one of the words we are most likely to think about is “spots”. Why is that? Well, all giraffes have spots, don’t they? If you think this is true, think again!

An amazing event happened at the Tennessee zoo on the 31st of July. A new baby giraffe, soon to be named, seemed to have no spots! This one-of-a-kind giraffe is of the reticulated species, meaning it is native to Somalia and Northern Kenya. In Africa, only 16,000 reticulated giraffes remain, dropping massively from 36,000 in only three decades! This renders the cutie even more unique!

The director of the Tennessee zoo, David Bright, posted an online poll on Facebook, where he asked the public for their opinion on what the baby giraffe should be named: Kipekee (“unique”), Shakiri (“most beautiful”), Frivali (“extraordinary”) and Jamella (“one of great beauty”). Out of the 4,000 votes on the different Swahili names, Kipekee was the most popular. “For a lot of the guests we talked to, that was the easiest name for a child to say,” the director explained on TODAY.

Scientists have been pondering why Kipekee was born with no spots, deciding the cause was a genetic mutation. In Tokyo, a similar event occurred in 1972, though Kipekee is still the only pattern-less giraffe in the world. Other giraffe’s coats have white markings if they don’t have any spots, whereas Kipekee’s coat is plain brown. “So there are no other living giraffes of this colour,” Bright claimed.

But why do giraffes have spots in the first place? Spots on a giraffe’s coat ensures they live a long life in two ways: the patterns help them camouflage into the background to hide from predators, and blood vessels under each spot release body heat, keeping them nice and cool in the hot sun.

Kipekee is doing well in the Tennessee zoo. They are being well cared for by both their mother and zoo workers. We all welcome Kipekee with open arms!

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