In Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, a pale, spotted animal named Omo stands out amid a sea of yellow giraffes. She is leucistic, meaning she was born with a genetic condition that prevents some of her skin cells from making pigment. According to researchers, Omo is the only known white-hued giraffe currently in existence. This rare distinction makes her vulnerable to poachers, and in need of protection by giraffe conservators.
According to The Telegraph, Omo was first sighted nearly a year ago during a population survey. (A local lodge guide named her Omo after a popular brand of powdered laundry detergent sold in Africa.) Recently, ecologist Derek Lee, who founded wilderness research and preservation group Wild Nature Institute, photographed a matured Omo in her natural habitat.
Now 15 months old, Omo will likely survive into adulthood. She’s no longer a small calf, which means she's better equipped to defend herself against predators like leopards, hyenas, and lions. She's not out of the woods yet, however. Omo is facing a different predator these days: humans. Giraffes are regularly killed for their meat, and Lee believes Omo could be targeted for her coat.
“We and our partners are working on giraffe conservation and anti-poaching to help give Omo and her relatives a better chance of survival,” Lee said. “We hope that she lives a long life and that someday she has calves of her own.”
While Omo’s coat might make her vulnerable to poachers, it doesn’t keep her from fitting in with other giraffes. According to Lee, she is always spotted with a group of peers, and they appear to get along as normal. “They don’t seem to mind her different coloring,” he said.