White giraffes are a rare sight in conservation parks in Kenya, but a mother and calf first spotted in 2017 had become a symbol of hope for the species. Now they have been found dead, presumably shot by poachers.
A rare white giraffe and her calf were killed by poachers near a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary, conservationists said on Tuesday.
The bodies of the two giraffes were found "in a skeletal state after being killed by armed poachers" in Garissa in eastern Kenya, the Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy said in a statement.
"This is a dark day not only to the conservation community but also to all the Kenyans who took pride in the existence of these unique species," the organization wrote on Twitter, describing them as "iconic."
"They tragically met their deaths around 57km north east of the conservancy," the statement continued.
The giraffes were first seen in the conservancy in 2017.
Why are the giraffes white?
White giraffes are very rare; only a few have been sighted in Kenya. They are not albinos, but instead have a condition called leucism, which means an animal's skin does not contain pigment-producing cells.
Poaching incidents have become less frequent in Kenya in recent years. Conservancy manager Mohammed Ahmednoor told German news agency DPA that it was possible the two giraffes had been killed by fighters from the terrorist group Al-Shabab, which operates in nearby Somalia and in the border areas.
"The killing is a blow to tremendous steps taken by the community to conserve rare and unique species, and a wake up call for continued support to conservation efforts," said Ahmednoor.