What’s thought to be the first video of two rare leucistic white giraffes has been circulating online and in conservation circles recently, generating excitement as it goes.
“These rare snow white giraffes shocked many locals including myself,” said Dr. Abdullahi Ali, founder of the Hirola Conservation Program, which works in eastern Kenya where the animals were spotted.
Unlike giraffes with albinism that completely lack melanin, resulting in red eyes from the underlying blood vessels, leucism is a partial loss of multiple types of pigment causing white or patchy pigmentation.
In the video, a pale white adult giraffe is seen alongside a calf. The younger giraffe’s spots are still faintly visible but Hirola says that they may continue to fade into total whiteness as it approaches adulthood.
This assumption is apparently backed up by another sighting of a leucistic giraffe calf in the process of fading to white, captured in a photo in Tanzania.
Another white giraffe pair was spotted in 2016 in Kenya, and that’s about the extent of sightings of the unique animals up until this first video footage as captured earlier this year.
Leucism is not albinism, however: Animals with albinism produce no melanin throughout their entire bodies. Animals with leucism may have darker pigment in their soft tissue, and their eyes retain a normal color. The eyes of animals with albinism are usually red.
The baby giraffe, Hirola said, was not totally white, but its tinges of color seemed to be “fading away, leaving the baby white as it approaches adulthood.”
It was unclear if, under the hot African sun, the giraffes’ skin was vulnerable to damage, Dr. Ali said. The rangers did not get close enough to examine the mother and baby, but he added: “I think they will be O.K. They seemed to be in excellent shape.”
“We are also curious to know the daily whereabouts of these giraffes, so we will keep an eye on them,” says Dr. Ali.
“We spent almost 20 minutes with the beautiful animals and had the pleasure of getting close-up photos and video of the duo,” Hirola Conservation Program founder Abdullahi H. Ali told the New York Times. “To our surprise, one normal color reticulated giraffe also was among the mother and calf. You can actually compare the difference.”