Kenya: White Giraffe in Garissa Fitted With Tracker Months After Mother Was Killed

17 November 2020

The world's only known rare white giraffe has been fitted with a tracking device at Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy in Garissa County, boosting conservation efforts.

It is the only known surviving white giraffe from a poaching incident in March where its mother and a seven-month-old calf were killed.

The male giraffe has leucism, a rare genetic trait of partial loss of pigmentation which inhibits skin cells from producing pigment but allows some organs such as eyes to be dark coloured.

The killing of the two giraffes in March was a major blow to steps taken by the community to preserve the rare species that has been under threat and whose population has declined by over 40 per cent in the past three decades to below 16,000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The female giraffe and the calf had enthralled wildlife enthusiasts around the world after they were pictured in 2017 grazing near the Ishaqbini sanctuary, the home to critically endangered Hirola antelopes.

The bull, which has now been fitted with a tracker, was until March 2020 among the three giraffes with the condition at the conservancy in Ijara.

Hourly updates

The device, fitted on one of the horns, will give hourly updates of its location to enable rangers monitor its movements on a daily basis in an effort to keep it safe from poachers.

The fitting was done following a request from the Ishaqbini Community Conservancy board to the Kenya Wildlife Service which is supported by the Northern Rangelands Trust and Save Giraffes Now.

"The giraffe's grazing range has been blessed with good rains and the plentiful vegetation bodes well for the future of the white male," the conservancy's Manager Ahmed Noor said.

KWS Eastern Conservation Senior Scientist Geoffrey Bundotich said the tracking will boost conservation efforts and will go a long way in sustaining livelihoods for local communities in Kotile, Korisa and Hara locations.

"The exercise will ensure real time monitoring in time and space as part of National Giraffe Strategy Implementation," he said.

This comes as the country continues to struggle to tame threats to wildlife populations.

Working with communities

The Ishaqbini conservancy, in partnership with the Garissa County Government, San Diego Zoo Global, USAid and Disney Conservation, Wildlife Protection Solutions, among others, has achieved improved wildlife conservation and access to water, bursaries and livestock vaccination for local communities.

"We are committed to working with communities, assisting them to be resilient, secure their livelihoods and protect unique wildlife such as the white giraffe," NRT's Senior Wildlife Monitoring Officer Antony Wandera said.

IUCN in December 2016 classified giraffes as vulnerable in the Red List and projected that about 86,000 giraffes had died in East Africa since 1985.

The global body on conservation of wild animals and plants cites habitat loss, poaching and ecological issues as among the threats to giraffe populations.

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