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Rare White Giraffe In Tanzania May Be 'Target’ For Poachers

Jan 27, 2016 01:56 PM EST
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Omo, a rare white giraffe living in Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, has a genetic condition known as leucism. This means many of her skin cells are unable to produce pigment, not that she is albino. Nonetheless, photographs released this week show her thriving in the park. 

"Omo is now 15 months old. 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," Derek Lee, ecologist and Wild Nature Institute (WNI) founder, told the Telegraph

However, she is not out of the woods just yet. Experts say her next hurdle will be avoiding poachers. 

"Her chances of surviving to adulthood are good but adult giraffes are regularly poached for bush meat, and her coloration might make her a target," Lee added.  

If Omo was albino, she would lack pigment everywhere and would have red or blue eyes. Although many of her skin cells are incapable of making pigment, some still are -- which makes her pale rather than completely white.

"Omo is the only pale giraffe we are currently aware of," Lee said. "But we have also observed leucistic waterbuck, Cape buffalo and ostrich in Tarangire." 

Incidentally, this giraffe's different coloring does not seem to make her an outcast: She is often seen in a large group, getting along with all the other normally colored giraffes. 

Lee and his conservation partners hope Omo is able to live a long life and someday even have calves of her own. In order to ensure such a future, experts are working on methods to increase giraffe conservation and anti-poaching. 

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