Giraffes typically tower above the trees of Africa, standing up to 6 meters (20 feet) tall. But several years ago during a research trip to Uganda, ecologist Michael Brown saw a giraffe unlike any he’d seen before. It was just 3 m (10 ft) tall—half the height of an average male giraffe.

Brown had spotted a dwarf giraffe. The animal had inherited a gene—a unit of hereditary material—that caused its short stature. This phenomenon can occur in other organisms as well, including humans. Only one other dwarf giraffe, found in Namibia, has ever been documented.

Giraffes both tall and small are under threat. Brown hopes his find will bring attention to the need to protect these animals. “The more people know about giraffes,” he says, “the more likely they are to appreciate them.”