A pair of rare white giraffes have been spotted in Kenya, to the delight of local residents and conservationists.
The reticulated giraffes, a mother and child, suffer from a genetic condition called leucism, which inhibits pigmentation in skin cells. Unlike albinism, animals with leucism continue to produce dark pigment in their soft tissue, which explains the white giraffes’ dark eyes and other colouring.
After local residents tipped them off, conservationists found the giraffes in the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in Kenya’s Garissa county.
The two white giraffes in Kenya — spotted by rangers at the Hirola Conservation Program in early August — have a genetic condition called leucism. Leucism results in the partial loss of color from an animal’s skin, hair, or scales, but not in other organs like the eyes, for instance. Other animals are white because they’re albinos — they have a congenital disorder that inhibits the formation of color in the animal’s skin, hair, scales, and eyes. That’s why leucistic animals can have dark eyes, while albino animals usually have pink eyes. (The pink color is actually from the blood vessels inside the eyes, seen through colorless irises.)