World’s Last Surviving White Giraffe Fitted With GPS Tracker to Protect From Poachers in Kenya

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

In northeast Kenya, the world’s last known surviving white giraffe has been fitted with a GPS-tracking device in an attempt to keep it safe from poachers, conservationists announced last week.

At the start of the year, two other white giraffes, a female and her 7-month-old calf, were killed by poachers. Their carcasses were discovered, in March, in a conservation area in Kenya’s northeastern Garissa County.

The remaining male white giraffe was borne by the same slaughtered female, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy said.

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A global positioning satellite unit was placed on one ossicone (horn) of the giraffe to aid effective monitoring. (Courtesy of Northern Rangelands Trust)

“Its killing is a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wakeup call for continued support to conservation efforts,” Mohammed Ahmednoor, the manager of the conservancy, said at the time of the female giraffe’s death, reported Daily Mail.

That tragic loss meant that the unique male, which has not been given a name, now stands alone, reports CNN. Sadly, rangers fear that the remaining bull could suffer the same fate.

Secured to one of the animal’s horns, the GPS-tracking device will give hourly updates of his location and allow rangers to monitor his movements to “keep the unique animal safe from poachers,” the conservancy stated.

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The world’s only known white giraffe lives in the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy, Garissa County. (Courtesy of Northern Rangelands Trust)

“The giraffe’s grazing range has been blessed with good rains in the recent past and the abundant vegetation bodes well for the future of the white male,” said conservancy official Ahmed Noor.

For their help in safeguarding wildlife species, Noor thanked the Kenya Wildlife Service, Save Giraffes Now, and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT).

Antony Wandera, senior wildlife monitoring officer at the NRT, said, “Our mission is to work with communities, enable them [to] be resilient, secure their livelihoods as well as protect the unique wildlife like the only known white giraffe.”

The cause of this magnificent specimen’s unique pale appearance is a rare genetic trait called leucism—not albinism. It causes the partial loss of pigmentation in an animal. Unlike albinism, animals with leucism continue to produce a dark pigment in their soft tissue and eyes.

Sadly, the result is not only one of wonder, but it also means that the animal is easier for poachers to spot on the arid African savanna.

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A participant chooses placards during the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and other endangered species (GMFER) in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 13, 2019. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Headlines were made back in 2017 when the female white giraffe was first discovered, alongside her calf. When a second calf followed, the family of three lived a free-ranging life within the confines of the sanctuary.

There was huge international interest, and visitors flocked to see the family. Video of the giraffe posted to YouTube racked up more than 1 million views, and the family were featured by USA Today, The Guardian, Inside Edition, and National Geographic, among other outlets.

The giraffes survived on the conservancy until the carcasses of the mother and one calf were found in March of this year.

Unfortunately, the world’s tallest land animal has lost 40 percent of its numbers in just 30 years, the African Wildlife Foundation estimates.

Giraffes have been designated as a vulnerable species on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, with an estimated current population of 68,293 globally.

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