Near a watering hole in a quiet valley in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Parkon February 17, photographer Sergio Pitamitz hoped to capture some images of migrating zebras. As dozens of the animals slowly meandered into the clearing, he spotted something unusual in the middle of the herd: A pop of white.
“At first I thought it was a zebra that had rolled in the dust,” says Pitamitz. But as he watched the animal wade into the water and start drinking, he noticed that the “dust” wasn’t washing off. Excitedly, he snapped away.
The golden-colored zebra likely has partial albinism, a condition very rarely seen in zebras, confirm several scientists, including Greg Barsh, a geneticist at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. (See pictures of zebras in National Geographic magazine.)
Partial albinism means that the animal has significantly less melanin—a natural pigment found in skin—than typical zebras. As a result, stripes appear pale in color.
“Nothing is known about albinism in zebras,” says Barsh by email. The animals are so rarely found that, despite some reported sightings in the wild, they’ve only been...