The Hirola Conservation Program in Kenya posted a video of two rare white giraffes on YouTube and the world just can’t seem to get enough of them. They are not albino, which many are mistakenly labeling them as. Rather, their pale pigment is due to a genetic condition known as leucism.
The two white giraffes are not albino.
Leucism, like albinism, prevents the animal’s skin cells from producing pigment, but other tissues in the body, such as eyes, can be colored. Albinism, on the other hand, prevents the body from producing any pigment at all, so animals with albinism often have pink eyes.
They’re not the only animals with this condition.
The condition of leucism, although rare, is not an unknown natural phenomenon. A pale-colored giraffe calf at the Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park was also recently discovered as well. In fact, leucism is not exclusive to giraffes, either. National Geographic recently posted a video showing a moose with leucism caught on camera, and mentioned white lions and penguins have also been seen.
But there are disadvantages to being this color.
Some have suggested that the giraffes’ color may make them more susceptible to being preyed on by other animals such as hyenas — or maybe even human poachers. That may be true, as their “out of the norm” color might make them conspicuous and give them undesirable attention. Other than that possibility, the giraffes suffer no other genetic disadvantage when compared to their “normal”-colored friends.
Giraffes, in general, have a tough start in life. According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, about 50% of giraffes do not survive through their first six months in the Serengeti. They often fall prey to their natural predators, hyenas, leopards, crocodiles, and lions.
Let’s hope these beautiful white giraffes live long and happy lives!