This is Omo, the extremely rare white giraffe named after a detergent brand. These images were taken by Dr. Derek Lee, the scientist and founder of the Wild Nature Institute.
He first saw the rare giraffe calf last year in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, and was so lucky to cross paths with it again this month. On the WNI blog he reported that the giraffe appeared to be doing well. According to researchers, Omo is the only known white-hued giraffe currently in existence.
Lee captured pictures of the white giraffe in the African bush during the institute’s biggest-ever giraffe research project. He has identified 2,100 giraffes in Tarangire National Park by using their natural spot pattern. Lee talked to news about this rare white giraffe and its chances of surviving to adulthood. Omo seems to get well with the other giraffes. It has always been seen with a large group of normally colored giraffes. In difference to many people, they don’t seem to mind different coloring.
Omo is not an albino. Although the giraffe appears healthy it suffers from a genetic condition named leucism that interferes with the ability of its skin cells to produce normal pigmentation. Leucism occurs when some or all pigment cells (that produce color) fail to develop during differentiation, so a part or the entire body surface lacks cells capable of producing pigment. One way to tell the difference between leucistic and albino animal is that albino individuals don’t have melanin everywhere including in their eyes, so the eye color is red from the underlying blood vessels.
The female giraffe is no more than 15 months old, meaning she has grown past her vulnerable time as a calf when hyenas and lions could easily prey on it. Poachers could also be a particular threat to a white animal like Omo in a region superstitious about albino animals and people. It would also be a rare trophy for a hunter.
It’s illegal to kill giraffes in Tanzania, as it is the national animal, but poaching is a huge problem. Many poachers use leg or neck snares which are indiscriminate killers. Unfortunately all giraffes, not just the leucistic ones like Omo, are in danger because of poaching.
Omo is the only pale giraffe the scientists are currently aware of, and it is the second white giraffe spotted in Tarangire over the last 20 years. Even though the coloration might make it a target, Omo lives in a national park where researchers protect it, and in that way it has the highest chance of survival thanks to anti-poaching efforts in the area.
As mentioned before, that the giraffe Omo got its name after a soap brand, people are now auctioning off the chance to rename the gorgeous giraffe. The funds raised will go to a non-profit to support animal conservation in Tanzania. The winner will get a list of seven non-profit options to choose from. Even you can give the little giraffe a name and help to protect her future.