Park rangers at the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in eastern Kenya happened upon two extremely rare white giraffes, and caught the encounter on video.
The footage features two white reticulated giraffes, a mother and her calf walking together through the trees. The giraffes appear to have the pigmentation-inhibiting genetic condition of leucism.Leucism differs from albinism in that it doesn’t necessarily result in full loss of pigmentation.
“They were so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence,” they wrote.
“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,” it added.
This is only the third time that a fully white giraffe has ever been sighted, and the Hirola Conservancy is one of two places they are known to exist.
The first sighting was in 2015, when a white giraffe, since named Omo, was found living in Tarangire National Park, in Tanzania. At the time it was believed that Omo was one of a kind, given that nothing like her had ever been seen, though other leucistic animals such as a waterbuck and an ostrich had been seen in Tarangire.
The second sighting was in March of 2016 when a white giraffe was found on the same Hirola Conservancy where the mother and calf were spotted. The rangers had gotten word of the giraffe from a nature photographer who had spotted the animal via aircraft. They later tracked the animal down to ensure it was healthy and feeding well.
Though the giraffe found on the Hirola Conservation in 2016 was female, there is no way to tell if it is the same one spotted this year.
There is no information available on how many of these giraffes are currently living in the wild, though the giraffe species as a whole is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
There are less than 80,000 giraffes left in the wild, and less than 8,700 of those are reticulated giraffes. Reticulated giraffes differ from their more common cousins the Masai giraffes, in that they are usually smaller with a shorter neck.