Help a Snow-White Giraffe and Her Friends Beat Extinction
Giraffes are experiencing a devastating population decline. Over the past 30 years, their numbers have dropped by 40%! These tall, yellow speckled creatures are currently listed as vulnerable, but many groups are working to increase this listing to endangered, which would provide them with the additional protection they desperately need. Protection for giraffes like Omo.
When ecologist Dr. Derek Lee of the Wild Nature Institute first saw Omo, a snow-white giraffe calf with a rare genetic condition called leucism, he was concerned for her safety. “The first year of life is very dangerous for wild giraffes because they are small enough to be killed and eaten by lions, hyenas, and leopards,” he stated. “Only about 50% of calves born survive their first year.”
Although she seems happy in her home, Lee says her survival is not guaranteed. In fact, she’s in trouble along with all giraffes because of habitat loss and illegal killing for meat. The situation is so bad, Lee states, that there are now four elephants for every one giraffe in Africa. Though they don’t often get the headlines that elephants do, giraffes are vulnerable to extinction.
Omo’s condition makes her a target for poachers who can easily spot her. Luckily, Omo lives in a community conservation area in Tanzania where local villagers designate land for wildlife conservation. Wild Nature Institute supports these new wildlife areas to protect some of the last, best habitat remaining for giraffes. The Institute’s scientists provide ecological data to assist the villagers in maintaining healthy populations of their giraffes, study giraffe disease to help thousands of other giraffes across Africa facing similar health problems, and they distribute innovative giraffe-themed educational materials to teach math, science, language, and conservation and inspire the next generation of African conservationists. Wild Nature Institute also supports training and patrols by anti-poaching village rangers.
Omo is not albino, but leucistic, a condition where pigment cells (that make color) fail to develop. A local safari guide christened her Omo, after a popular brand of laundry detergent there. Since being discovered, the giraffe became an internet sensation, and many people wondered if the other giraffes accepted her. “I think people love the fact that Omo the white giraffe was accepted by her normally colored peers, because it speaks to human hopes for tolerance and acceptance of those who look different or are not normal,” said Dr. Lee.
Giraffe habitat across southern and eastern Africa is shrinking rapidly through deforestation, agriculture, and human population growth. We are in desperate need of your help to stop the decline of giraffes!
Click here to help save these beautiful mammals from extinction.
by Jim Kober, June 14, 2017