The rare giraffes have a condition called leucism, which causes their coats to appear white.
Conservationists are celebrating the sighting of two rare, cream-colored giraffes in northeastern Kenya. Captured on film by the Hirola Conservation Program (HCP), the snowy-white giraffes appear almost otherworldly. Don’t be fooled, however — they are definitely real. The mother and baby have a genetic condition called leucism, which is different than albinism yet causes them to appear white.
TreeHugger reports that the giraffes were spotted in an area where HCP, a Kenya-based non-governmental organization, and Rainforest Trust are protecting the territory for hirola antelope. After hearing about the giraffes’ existence from local villagers, HCP rangers rushed to the scene to glimpse the animals themselves.
“Early june this year, reports of a white baby giraffe and its mother were reported to us by the rangers who got the report from one of the villagers adjacent to the Ishaqbini conservancy. We hurriedly headed to the scene as soon as we got the news. And lo! There, right in front of us, was the so hyped ‘white giraffe’ of Ishaqbini conservancy!”
Once they caught sight of the mother and her baby, the adult female paced back and forth a few yards from them. This signaled the juvenile giraffe to hide in the bushes. According to HCP, this is common behavior exhibited by mothers in the wild seeking to protect their young.
Though the elegant creatures look as if they have albinism, they actually have leucism. The condition turns animals’ appearance white but doesn’t result in their eyes turning red (as is the case with albinism). As a result, animals with leucism appear white but have dark eyes.
HCP said most elders in the area have never seen white giraffes in the area, as they are very uncommon. One of the organization’s Rangers, Bashir, stated: “This is new to us. I remember when I was a kid, we never saw them. It must be very recent and we are not sure what is causing it.”
While giraffes with leucism are very rare, this isn’t the first sighting of one (or more than one) in Kenya or Tanzania. The first report of a white giraffe in the wild occurred in January of 2016, in a Tanzania national park.