Kenya’s only female white giraffe and her calf have been killed by poachers, conservationists say, a disastrous development in the only part of the world they are thought to exist.
The animals’ skeletons were found after a long search at the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in the eastern Garissa County.
It’s believed that the only surviving white giraffe is a male, whose mother was the female who has now been killed.
“Her killing is a blow to the steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species and a wake-up call for continued support to conservation efforts,” said the reserve’s manager Mohammed Ahmednoor, as reported by Kenya’s Daily Nation.
“We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe,” he said, adding that the white giraffe was “a big boost to tourism” and describing it as a “sad day” for the community and the country.
Dr Abdullahi H. Ali, who founded the Hirola Conservation Programme, described the slaughter of the “snowy white” giraffes on Twitter as “devastating news”.
The discovery of the rare white giraffe in 2017 sparked a huge stir, among local villagers and rangers and the wider world. A video of the female with her calf posted on YouTube by the reserve has since been viewed nearly half a million times.
The conservation programme said at the time that there had been only a handful of sightings of white giraffes, in Kenya and Tanzania. This game them “renewed energy to protect and save our unique wildlife”.
Experts say the animals are not albinos but display a genetic condition known as leucism, which results in the partial loss of skin pigmentation.
Giraffes have been declared “vulnerable” to extinction – through poaching and lost habitat – on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species.
The IUCN says their numbers are decreasing. The number of mature individuals based on data from 2015 was estimated at just over 68,000 – representing a decline of up to 40% in 30 years.