In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about white giraffes

Just one of the rare creatures remains in existence after poachers kill mother and her calf

The only known female white giraffe in the world and her calf have been killed by poachers in Kenya.

Their deaths are believed to leave just one remaining white giraffe alive - a lone male born to the slaughtered female, according to the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy.

“They were among the rarest giraffes to walk the planet, and now they are gone,” says CNN.

The Kenya Wildlife Society, the main conservation body in the East African state, is investigating the killings.

What happened?

Rangers released a statement posted on Twitter announcing that they found the two giraffes’ carcasses in a village in Garissa County. The remains were in a skeletal condition and wildlife officials estimate that they had been there for at least four months.

“Her calf was the second birth reported in August last year, resulting in a family of three white giraffes,” the statement said.

The motive of the unidentified poachers remains unclear. 

White giraffes get their unusual colouring as a result of a rare condition called leucism, which causes skin cells to have no pigmentation.

The overall number of giraffes alive in the world has dropped by about 40% in the past 30 years, from around 155,000 to 97,000, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

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And  the reaction to the white giraffe killings?

“This is a dark day not only to the conservation community but also to all the Kenyans who took pride in the existence of this unique species,” said a statement from the Hirola Conservation Programme.

Abdullahi H. Ali, founder of the Hirola Conservation Program in Kenya, told CBS News: “The community is devastated by this loss and certainly saddened.”

Poaching is prohibited in Kenya and poachers are likely to face jail time, he added.

“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 in a big boost to tourism in the area,” added reserve manager Mohammed Ahmednoor.

The female white giraffe made headlines worldwide after being discovered alongside her first calf in 2017.  

Visitors flocked to see the family and video footage off the rare creatures attracted more than a million views on YouTube. 

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