To help protect the only known white giraffe in the world from poachers in Kenya, authorities have fitted it with a GPS tracking device. The white male giraffe was one of three giraffes with a unique white hide. Together, they were a major attraction for tourists at a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary.
However, in March, the other two — female giraffe and her calf — were killed by armed poachers in a village in Kenya’s Garissa county.
“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. Its killing is a blow to the tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species and a wake-up call for continued support to conservation efforts,” Mohammed Ahmednoor, manager of the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy said at the time.
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The female giraffe and her calf came into the limelight in 2017 after they were discovered. They instantly became an attraction because of their rare genetic trait. The third one, which is currently the only surviving bull, was also later spotted.
The giraffes’ white hide, which is not a result of albinism, is due to a condition known as leucism, which makes the skin cells unable to have any pigmentation. Animals with leucism, however, have dark eyes as they’re able to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue, unlike albinism.
“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,” Ahmednoor said when the female giraffe and her calf died.
To prevent the last known white giraffe from being killed, officials on November 8 placed the GPS tracking device on one of its horns to give hourly updates of its location, the BBC reported.
Conservationists had earlier called on Kenyan wildlife officials to fit the giraffe with the tracking device. Over the last 30 years, 40% of the giraffe population has been lost mainly through poaching (for their meat and skin) and wildlife trafficking, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.