WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- The only white female giraffe in Kenya along with her second calf found dead.
- These all-white giraffes are rare but not entirely unique. The condition is hereditary and passed on to the next generation.
- These deaths leave one male giraffe carrying the genes responsible for the condition, leucism.
The only white female giraffe in Kenya was found dead along with her calf in Ijara, Garissa County, where the giraffes were free-ranging, Ishaqbini Conservancy officials have announced on Tuesday.
The carcasses were found after armed poachers have killed the mother, likely four months ago, leaving her calf dead of starvation. The deaths leave only one white giraffe born to the female remaining in the country.
“This is a very sad day for the community of Ijara and Kenya as a whole,” said Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy, in a statement sent to Newsweek. “We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe. Its killing is a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wakeup call for continued support to conservation efforts.”
These deaths underscoring the challenges in conservation amid persistent poaching also disrupts the tourism industry and scientific research that may stem from these rare animals.
“This is a long-term loss given that genetics studies and research, which were [a] significant investment into the area by researchers, has now gone to the drain,” said Ahmednoor, adding, “Further to this the white giraffe was a big boost to tourism in the area.”
The giraffe attracted global attention because of its all-white appearance that is caused by leucism, not albinism. Animals with this condition exhibit partial loss of pigmentation in their skin and hair, but dark pigments are produced in soft tissues, leading to dark-colored eyes.
Many all-white giraffe sightings have been recorded over time, in 1956, 2005, 2011 and the most recent, 2015, says Atlas Obscura. Leucism has also been reported in other animals, including cobras and woodpeckers.
The condition is hereditary, meaning that the genes could be passed on from one generation to the next. This leaves one giraffe that carries on the genes encoding for leucism, officials say.
The first recorded sighting of these all-white giraffes in Kenya is back in June 2017, after a villager near the Ishaqbini Conservancy reported it to the authorities.
“Nature is always stunning and continue to surprise humanity! These rare snow-white giraffes shocked many locals including myself but these gave us renewed energy to protect and save our unique wildlife,” Dr. Abdullahi Ali, Hirola Conservation Programme Director & Founder, said at the time.
“I am positive these rare giraffes will change the perception of outsiders regarding northeastern Kenya in which many people have negative perceptions.”