New Delhi: A rare white giraffe and her 7-month-old calf were killed by poachers in a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. According to a report in The New York Times, the manager of the sanctuary confirmed the deaths Tuesday.
The giraffe’s “rare pigmentation mesmerized” global wildlife enthusiasts. The animals lived in the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in northeastern Kenya.
“This is a very sad day for the community of Ijara and Kenya as a whole,” said Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the conservancy, according to the NYT report.
“We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe,” he said, and added that the incident is a “wake-up call for continued support to conservation efforts”.
“This is a long-term loss given that genetics studies and research, which were significant investment into the area by researchers, have now gone down the drain,” he said.
Following the deaths, a male white giraffe is now the sole surviving member of the family.
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What makes a giraffe white
According to scientists at the Wild Nature Institute in New Hampshire, the pale skin of the giraffe is caused by leucism, a genetic condition that results in loss of pigmentation.
Leucism is different from albinism. Animals with albinism don’t produce any melanin in their bodies and their eyes are usually red. However, animals with leucism showcase darker pigments in their soft tissues and the eyes tend to retain their colour.
White giraffes have reportedly been spotted in Kenya in recent years. A villager spotted an adult female giraffe with a pale baby giraffe in 2017. At the time, conservationists were unclear whether something had happened to the calf or whether “skin pigmentation changed as it aged”.
Other white giraffes were spotted a year before that in the same part of Kenya.
These rare giraffes have been a great boost to tourism in that country.
According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, there are over 1,11,000 giraffes in Africa.
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