When a bright white giraffe and her equally colorless calf were first spotted in Kenya in 2017, conservationists worried their lack of camouflage would make them easy targets for predators, if not poachers. Their fears were well-founded. In a devastating blow, it's believed poachers killed the female and a new calf, leaving the 2- to 3-year-old male as the only known white giraffe left in the country, per USA Today. "This is a very sad day," says Mohammed Ahmednoor, manager of the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy, which oversees land on which the giraffe family roamed in Garissa County. The female and her calf born in 2019 hadn't been seen for some time before their bones were discovered by locals some 35 miles northeast of the conservancy. It's believed they were killed four months ago.
The giraffes had leucism, a genetic condition resulting in partial loss of pigmentation, which left them with milky white skin but dark eyes. Their 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," Ahmednoor says, per the New York Times. "This is a long-term loss given that genetics studies and research [that] were [a] significant investment into the area ... has now gone down the drain," he adds. No suspects have been identified, per the BBC, which describes the conservancy as "a vast unfenced area" that includes villages. The Kenya Wildlife Service is investigating. (Another giraffe with leucism, this one with the trademark spots, has been spotted in Tanzania.)?