Kenya’s only living female white giraffe and her calf died after the adult giraffe was killed by local poachers, according to Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy.
Their deaths were confirmed by Garissa County conservation center in a press release on Tuesday, in which it said that the body of the mother giraffe was found by rangers “in a skeletal state after being killed by poachers.”
“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,” Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy, said in a statement. “Its killing is a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wake up call for continued support to conservation efforts.”
Officials said the calf, whose body was found alongside the adult giraffe, appeared to have starved to death after its mother died, according to Newsweek.
There is only one white giraffe — a male birthed by the late mother — left in the country, according to the conservation center.
“This is a long term loss given that genetics studies and research, which were [a] significant investment into the area by researchers, has now gone to the drain,” Ahmednoor added. “Further to this the white giraffe was a big boost to tourism in the area.”
The white giraffes’ unique color was a result of a condition called leucism, which — unlike albinism — continue to produce dark pigments in the animal’s soft tissue. The trait caused the mother giraffe and her calfs to have dark eyes, rather than the red ones typically seen in instances of albinism.
Their bright coloring and lack of camouflage made them potentially vulnerable to predators, according to National Geographic.
The rare giraffes were first discovered in 2017 after a villager living adjacent to the conservatory reported its sighting to a ranger.
“Nature is always stunning and continue to surprise humanity! These rare snow white giraffes shocked many locals including myself but these gave us renewed energy to protect and save our unique wildlife,” Dr. Abdullahi Ali, Hirola Conservation Programme director and founder, said at the time. “I am positive these rare giraffes will change the perception of outsiders regarding north eastern Kenya in which many people have negative perceptions.”
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