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In early june this year, reports of a white baby giraffe and its mother were reported to us by the rangers who got the report from one of the villagers adjacent to the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy of northeastern Kenya. We hurriedly headed to the scene as soon as we got the news. And lo and behold, there right in front of us were the two celebrated albino giraffes, so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence. The mother kept pacing back and forth a few yards infront of us while signalling the baby giraffe to hide behind the bushes – a characteristic of most wildlife mothers in the wild to prevent the predation against their young.
While observing the magnificent long necked animal looking at us, I could not but help see the fading reticulates on their skins! It was evident that the coloration especially on the mother giraffe was not as conspicuous as the baby. The question that lingered in my mind was if the fading on the skin was something that happened at birth or thereafter in the adult giraffe life? This is because the baby giraffe, had very conspicuous reticulates but with a small tinge of the white coloration that seemed to continue fading away leaving the baby white as it approaches adulthood.
This is only the thirds sighting of white (or "leucistic") giraffes on record. The very first reports of a white giraffe in the wild was reported in January 2016 in Tabzania's Tarangire National Park, and the second Tanzania; the second was two months later - like this one, also in Kenya's Ishaqbini Conservancy.
As a matter of fact, these sightings have gotten the the communities in these areas (especially within our conservancies) so excited that everybody has been participating in reporting the sighting of these magnificent animals.
But the question that lingers in the minds of many is, is the giraffe white or what’s up with its coloration? Experts have explained that the condition is known as leucism, which results in the partial loss of the pigmentation of the giraffes original color. In this very sighting in Ishaqbini, there was a mother and a juvenile The communities within Ishaqbini have mixed reactions to the sighting of this leucistic giraffe and most of the elders report that they have never seen this before. ‘This is new to us” says Bashir, one of the community rangers who alerted us when they sighted the white giraffe. “I remember when I was a kid, we never saw them” he added. “It must be very recent and we are not sure what is causing it” he said.
As excited as the locals, Hirola Conservation Programme Director and founder Dr. Abdullahi Ali says, "Nature is always stunning and continue to surprise humans. These rare snow-white giraffes shocked many locals, including myself, but these gave us renewed energy to protect and save our unique wildlife. I am positive these rare giraffes will change the perception of outsiders regarding north eastern Kenya in which many people have negative perceptions. I remember two years while I was in the US someone asked me where do you come from in Kenya and I said Garissa in eastern Kenya. Her immediate response was that "there is a lot of nothing there". Snowy white giraffes and the rare hirola antelope are off course not everywhere! In this regard and in partnership with local communities, relevant authorities in Kenya and international partners, we promise to protect these beauties and their vital habitat. We are also curious to know the daily whereabouts of these giraffes, so we will keep an eye on them."
Story Courtesy of Hilora Conservancy Programme