An image that has been circulating online for several years claims to show a rare golden zebra. Is this image real or fake?
The image is real, but it has been digitally enhanced.
This rare zebra named Zoe was born on Sept. 16, 1998 on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. She currently lives at the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary above the town of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The ranch’s website explains her unusual appearance:
Her unusual color is due to her having “amelanosis”. She is not an albino. She has striking gold stripes and blue eyes. In horses, there is a similar condition called “Lethal White Foal Syndrome” which is associated with the occurrence of other serious birth defects. Although this color variation occasionally occurs in wild herds, the animals would likely survive only a few days at best. This is probably because zebras use their stripes as camouflage to blend in with the rest of herd.
The ranch states that there have been only two other “white” zebras in captivity, one a century ago, and one in Japan in the 1970s. There are also about 24 other “Golden Zebras” alive in South Africa.
Zoe is said to be experiencing poor night vision as a result of her age.
Zoe’s had a sister who passed away in February 2015, and her mother “Oreo” lived to the age of 28. The sanctuary reports that the passing of her mother and sister have put Zoe in “a stressful position – a herd animal without a herd.”
The image of Zoe being circulated has been digitally enhanced to make Zoe’s stripes appear more golden than they really are (see original here and another here). In reality, her stripes have a more subtle tone, as can be seen in the photos below.
The first image below is the enhanced “golden” image being circulated, followed by two unaltered photos of Zoe.
Below is a short video which summarizes the information presented here.
A photograph circulating online of a rare zebra with gold stripes and blues eyes is real, but the image has been enhanced to make the colors appear brighter than they really are. This is evident by comparing the enhanced photo with unaltered pictures. This zebra by the name of Zoe has a rare condition called “amelanosis” and currently lives at the Three Ring Ranch in Hawaii.
- Zoe (ThreeRingRanch.org)
Updated January 11, 2016
Originally published May 2013