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'This is a dark day': A pair of rare white giraffes are dead in Kenya, likely killed by poachers

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/11/2020 Joel Shannon, USA TODAY
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Authorities in Kenya are investigating reports that two rare white giraffes have died and that poachers are likely responsible for the deaths.

The Hirola Conservation Program announced Tuesday the adult female giraffe and her calf were found dead. In 2017, the program explained the rare animals had a condition called leucism, resulting in the partial loss of the giraffes' pigmentation.

"This is a dark day not only to the conservation community but also to all the Kenyans who took pride in the existence of this unique species," a release says.

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Locals found the carcasses of the animals and the conservation program believes the giraffes were killed by poachers.

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The Kenya Wildlife Service is investigating the deaths and has found the remains of two giraffes, the agency announced on Twitter Tuesday. The bones appeared to be about four months old, the agency said.

"The management of the conservancy informed us of the missing giraffe and calf after failing to see them for a period of time," the announcement said. 

Leucism differs from albinism, which is marked by the loss of all pigmentation and affects the color of the eyes, the National Park Service says.

The female giraffe birthed a male calf in 2017, the Wildlife Service said. That same year, the giraffes received international attention after video was captured of the mother and calf.

In 2019, the female was pregnant again with another calf, the Wildlife Service said.

A release tweeted by the The Northern Rangelands Trust says the three white giraffes had formed a family. Now only the male remains.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'This is a dark day': A pair of rare white giraffes are dead in Kenya, likely killed by poachers

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