Three rare white giraffes resided in Kenya up until Tuesday. Now, only one remains. A mother giraffe and her calf were murdered by poachers, reported Kenyan officials. This is a devastating blow to the community and to the rare species.
When the bones were found, wildlife officials estimated they had been there for at least four months, reported CNN.
Now only one male giraffe, the second offspring to the female, remains.
“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 giraffes,” said Mohammed Ahmednoor, manager of the reserve in Garissa County, Kenya, in a news release, according to Fox 10 News.
These white giraffes are not albino, according to park officials. The female giraffe had a condition called leucism, which means dark pigment appeared in her soft tissue. This was the reason her eyes were dark in color, reported Fox 10 News.
“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 a big boost to tourism in the area,” said Ahmednoor.
Although the Kenya Wildlife Service said the rare white giraffes were down to these two now, one more was spotted in Tarangire National Park, in Tanzania, in January 2016, reported CNN. However, it wasn’t t immediately known what happened to that animal.
The giraffes had seen quite a bit of fame on social media back in 2017. Ranger spotted the animals while on patrol in the conservancy and posted a video to YouTube. It soon went viral. Some viewers expressed concern even back then that this newfound fame for the giraffes could present some risks for them for poaching, reported National Geographic.
Officials described the killing as “a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species,” as well as “a wake-up call for continued support to conservation efforts.”
The African Wildlife Foundation estimates that giraffes have lost 40% of their population in just 30 years from poaching and wildlife trafficking. Their numbers have dwindled to about 16,000 now, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the conservation status of wild animals and plants.
Giraffes are poached for their hide, meat, bones, and tails. This has increased across Africa as human populations grow and take over the wildlife habitats. These creatures have also fallen victim to retaliatory killings for crop damage, vehicle strikes, and hunting for bushmeat, reported National Geographic.