Enviro Monday: Rare white giraffes spotted in Kenya

A female white giraffe and her white calf were spotted by villagers in Kenya recently.

The reticulated giraffes were spotted in Garissa County near the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy. The villagers informed rangers of the unusual sighting.

Conservationists who hurried to the site managed to take what is believed to be the first known video footage of white giraffes, said Dr Abdullah H. Ali, who founded Hirola and has been working to conserve the critically endangered hirola antelope in the eastern part of the country.

The giraffes were with other normal coloured reticulated giraffes.

WATCH: First known footage of white giraffes

A genetic condition known as leucism



The white giraffes are an example of animals with a genetic condition known as leucism, which inhibits pigmentation in skin cells. The condition occurs across the animal kingdom – birds, lions, fish, peacocks, penguins, eagles, hippos, moose and snakes have displayed the trait.

Leucism is not albinism. Animals with albinism produce no melanin. Animals with leucism may have darker pigment in their soft tissue, and their eyes retain a normal colour. The eyes of animals with albinism are usually red.

The communities in the area are “excited” about the rare sightings of leucistic giraffes and are standing together to protect them.

Giraffes are vulnerable to extinction


Giraffes have been declared “vulnerable” to extinction because of poaching and a loss of habitat, according to the Red List of Threatened Species published in 2016 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The animals are extinct in at least seven countries in Africa. They can live up to 25 years in the wild, but more than half of all giraffe calves die before they are six months old because they’re often the targets of lions, hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles.

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