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Poachers kill Kenya's only white female giraffe and calf

Poachers kill Kenya's only white female giraffe and calf

The Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy has said that the bodies of a white female giraffe and her calf had been found "in a skeletal state after being killed by armed poachers" in Garissa County, in the east of the country.

Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service were called to the animal sanctuary after the white giraffes had not been seen for a while.

It is believed they were slaughtered some three or four months ago. The poachers' motives are not known.

Their deaths means there is just one specimen left alive in Kenya, if not in the world – a male calf born to the now dead female in August last year.

"We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe," according to Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the conservancy.

"Its killing is a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wakeup call for continued support to conservation efforts," he added.

Though another white giraffe was spotted in Tanzania's Tarangire National Park in early 2016, it is not known what has happened to it since.

Huge interest was stirred when the white giraffe was first seen on the conservancy in 2017, an interest that turned to excitement when she gave birth to two calves, the second just over six months old.

Ahmednoor said their deaths marked a "sad day" and a major loss for researchers and those who live on the proceeds of the tourists attracted to what is a remote corner of Kenya.

The whiteness of the animal's coat is caused not by albinism but by a condition known as leucism, which causes skin cells to have no pigmentation, though dark pigment is produced in their soft tissue, giving them dark eyes. Animals affected by albinism have red eyes.

The world's tallest land animal has lost 40% of its population in just 30 years from poaching and wildlife trafficking, the African Wildlife Foundation estimates.

The population dropped from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

(with wires)