Rare white giraffe could be ‘target’ for poachers

By Kate Hassett

DEREK LEE/CATERS NEWS
DEREK LEE/CATERS NEWS
Omo, the rare white giraffe, has been spotted in Tanzania but park rangers fear her condition could make her a target for poachers.

A rare white giraffe called Omo, has been spotted one year after her birth, healthy and thriving in the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Omo was born with leucistic, a genetic condition which affects and hinders the production of pigment on the surface of the skin. The condition however is not linked to albinism.

“Omo is leucistic, meaning many of the skin cells are incapable of making a pigment. Some are, so she is pale but not pure white, with red or blue eyes, as a true albino would be,” explains Ecologist Derek Lee, founder of the Wild Nature Institute, who took the photos.

“Omo is the only pale giraffe we are currently aware of, but we have also observed leucistic waterbuck, Cape buffalo and ostrich in Tarangire,” Lee told The Telegraph.

“Omo appears to get along with the other giraffes, she has always been seen with a large group of normally coloured giraffe, they don’t seem to mind her different colouring.”

The beautiful images of Omo are a sign that despite her condition, she has adapted to life in the wild and is thriving with the rest of her relatives.

“Omo is now 15 months old,” Lee explains. “She survived her first year as a small calf, which is the most dangerous time for a young giraffe due to lion, leopard and hyena preying on them. Her chances of surviving to adulthood are good, but adult giraffe are regularly poached for bushmeat, and her [coloration] might make her a target.”

Lee and his team are concerned that poachers will come after her because of her rare condition. Her ‘trophy’ status amongst loathsome poachers is something that park rangers will be watching out for over the coming years.

“We and our partners are working on giraffe conservation and anti-poaching to help give Omo and her relatives a better chance of survival.

“We hope that she lives a long life and that someday she has calves of her own.”

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