Kenya’s only female white giraffe, one of the world’s rarest, and her calf have been found dead at a wildlife sanctuary in Ijara, Garissa County, confirmed the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy. The conservationist group, in a statement, said that the death was confirmed on March 10 by the community members and their rangers.
The conservancy stated that the giraffe was in a skeletal state after being killed by armed poachers. The calf was the second birth which was reported in August 2019 which resulted in a family of three white giraffes but only the lone bull remains after the death.
“This is a very sad day for the community of Ijara and Kenya as a whole. We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe,” said Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy.
“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," Ahmednoor added.
Kenya’s white giraffe, with its unique hide, grabbed headlines in 2017 but it is important to note that it was white because of the condition known as leucism and is not albino. The giraffe, endemic to Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy, had the white colour due to leucism due to which it continues to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue. Due to the rare condition, her eyes were still dark in colour.
Unlike leucism, albinism is a condition in which there is an absence of melanin, giving colour to the skin, feathers, hair and eyes. While Leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation which can make the animal have white or patchily coloured skin, hair, feathers and so on, but the pigment cells in the eyes are not affected.
“This is a long term loss given that genetics studies and research which were significant investment into the area by researchers, has now gone to the drain. Further to this, the white giraffe was a big boost to tourism in the area," Ahmednoor expressed anguish.