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Two Rare White Giraffes Filmed in Kenya

The leucistic mother and baby were filmed by local rangers in August

smithsonian.com

Giraffes are pretty crazy looking on the best of days, but a new video making the rounds ups the ante. Captured in a reserve in Kenya by rangers from the Hirola Conservation Program, the video shows a ghost-white mother giraffe and her calf browsing in the bush, reports Sara Gibbens at National Geographic.

As Gibbens reports, the giraffes aren’t albino, as many might assume on first glance. Instead, they suffer from a condition known as leucism, which prevents skin cells from producing pigments, yet allows other organs to process them. Conversely albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the body from producing any pigment, and is often marked by the presence of pink eyes.

As Naaman Zhou at The Guardian reports, the giraffes were first reported to the rangers by locals living near the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in Garissa county in June. The rangers finally located and filmed the animals in August. “They were so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence,” they write in a blog post on the HCP website. “The mother kept pacing back and forth a few yards in front of us while signaling the baby giraffe to hide behind the bushes—a characteristic of most wildlife mothers in the wild to prevent the predation of their young.”

This is not the first report of a white giraffe in eastern Africa. According to HCP one was spotted in January, 2016, in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park and a white giraffe, perhaps one of the individuals recently filmed, was reported in Hirola in March 2016 and was later photographed. As Cara Giaimo at Atlas Obscura reports, sightings of white giraffes have occurred as far back as 1938 and they have also been seen in 1956, 2005, 2011 and 2015.

Still, the creatures are a rarity. According to HCP, local elders say they have never seen white giraffes before. “This is new to us” Bashir, a community ranger, says in the blog post. “I remember when I was a kid, we never saw them.”

The giraffes just add to 2017’s menagerie of white animals. In July, a rare pale tiger was photographed in India and in August, video of bright white moose came out of Sweden. Then of course there’s the albino groundhog in Maryland in July and the eraser-pink dolphin that recently showed up in Louisiana.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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