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The white giraffes in Kenya © Hirola Conservation Program
© Hirola Conservation Program

A pair of giraffes with leucism, a condition that inhibits pigmentation in skin cells, have been filmed by conservationists for the first time in Kenya.

The reticulated giraffes, a mother and calf, suffer from a genetic condition called leucism, which inhibits pigmentation in skin cells. Unlike albinism, animals with leucism continue to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue, which explains the white giraffes’ dark eyes and other colouring.

After local residents tipped them off, conservationists found the giraffes in a conservancy managed by the Hirola Conservation Programme (HCP), an NGO dedicated to preserving the critically endangered hirola antelope, one of the rarest in the world.

“They were so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence. The mother kept pacing back and forth a few yards in front of us while signalling the baby giraffe to hide behind the bushes.”

Giraffes are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ according to IUCN, which means that they are vulnerable to extinction in the near future. There are four distinct giraffe species in Africa, and two of these species have two and three subspecies respectively. Reticulated giraffes are one such species, with an estimated 8,700 individuals in the wild. They live in Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Read more about giraffes here.

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