SAN FRANCISCO -- There's a brand new spotless superstar on the scene at a Tennessee zoo.
She doesn't have a name yet, but she's already made a big splash among her herd - she's a giraffe without patches.
The 6-foot wonder was born sans spots on July 31 at Bright's Zoo, a privately owned facility in Limestone, and made her public debut this month. The calf is a reticulated giraffe, one of four giraffe species.
The zoo said she might be the "only solid-colored reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet."
The word "reticulated" refers to the giraffe's network of polygonal brown spots, broken up by veins of creamy off-white, according to the Denver Zoo. The spots function primarily as camouflage in the savannas of northern Kenya where they live and graze.
And underneath each spot is a "sophisticated system of blood vessels," according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on sustaining and growing the wild giraffe population across Africa. It takes a large network of vessels and 25-pound hearts to keep the world's tallest land mammal on its hooves.
Zoo founder Tony Bright said that the weeks-old calf is casting a "much-needed spotlight" on giraffe conservation. Around 16,000 reticulated giraffes remain in the wild, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, a 50% decline in the last three-and-a-half decades from when there were around 36,000 wild reticulated giraffes living on the continent.
The new calf joins a growing herd at Bright's, following another baby giraffe that was born just weeks before. The zoo says she's "thriving" under the supervision of her attentive mother and its human staff. Now she just needs a name, which fans can vote on before the winning moniker is announced on Labor Day.
Among the four choices are Kipekee, which means "unique" in Swahili - a fitting name for an exceedingly rare baby.
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