World's only white giraffe is fitted with GPS tracking in Kenya

World’s only white giraffe is fitted with GPS tracking in a bid to protect it months after a white female and her calf were killed by poachers in Kenya

  • The male white giraffe has a GPS tracking device attached to one of its horns 
  • He is the only white giraffe to remain after a female and her calf were killed by poachers in Garissa, eastern Kenya in March 
  • The giraffe’s white appearance is caused by a rare genetic trait called leucism 

The only known white giraffe in the world has been fitted with a GPS tracking device to help protect it from poachers as it grazes in Kenya. 

The male white giraffe now stands alone after a female and her calf were killed by poachers in March, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy said in a statement Tuesday. Despite its singular status, the lonely male doesn’t have a name.

A rare genetic trait called leucism causes the white colour, and it makes the one surviving giraffe stand out dangerously for poachers in the arid savannah near the Somalia border.

Now the GPS tracking device, attached to one of the giraffe’s horns, will ping every hour to alert wildlife rangers to its location.

The male (pictured above) is the only known white giraffe in the world and has been fitted with a GPS tracking device to help protect it from poachers. The male was darted with a tranquilizer in order to fit the GPS tracker. 

He is the last remaining white giraffe after a female and her calf was killed in March 

The conservancy has thanked the Kenya Wildlife Service along with the Northern Rangelands Trust and Save Giraffes Now for the help.

The bodies of Kenya’s only female white giraffe and her calf were found ‘in a skeletal state after being killed by armed poachers in Garissa in eastern Kenya in March, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy said in a statement.

The remaining male white giraffe was borne by the same slaughtered female, the conservancy said.

‘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,’ Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the conservancy, said at the time of the female giraffe’s death.  

A female white giraffe and her calf were killed by poachers in Garissa in eastern Kenya in March

‘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,’ he said. ‘Further to this the white giraffe was a big boost to tourism in the area.’  

Why is the giraffe white?

The female white giraffe, who was killed in March by poachers, sparked huge interest in 2017 when she was first spotted in Kenya.

The giraffe’s white appearance is caused by a rare genetic condition known as leucism, which leads skin cells to have no pigmentation.

The condition means they continue to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue, giving them dark eyes.   

Despite their inability to produce colourful pigment, giraffes with leucism don’t face genetic disadvantages to their survival, but their colour can attract unwanted attention from predators. 

The female white giraffe stirred huge interest in 2017 when she was first spotted on the conservancy and again when she birthed two calves, the latest in August last year.

Their alabaster colour is caused not by albinism but a condition known as leucism. 

The condition means they continue to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue, giving them dark eyes.  

Workers at the Hirola Conservation Programme revealed in 2017 how they local community rangers had tipped them off about the giraffes. 

‘They were so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence,’ the conservation workers said at the time. 

‘The mother kept pacing back and forth a few yards infront of us while signalling the baby Giraffe to hide behind the bushes.’

The mother’s behaviour was a ‘characteristic of most wildlife mothers in the wild to prevent the predation of their young,’ they said. 

An earlier white giraffe sighting had been reported in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park in 2016. 

It is not clear what happened to that animal, but the conservancy says the surviving calf in Kenya, which is now fitted with a GPS tracking device, is the only known one. 

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation says the total number of giraffes in Africa has dropped by 30 per cent since the 1980s and up to 95 per cent in some areas.  

The Hirola programme is named after an endangered species of antelope which the organisation aims to protect. 

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