In 2017, the rare white giraffe put a remote community conservancy in the north of Kenya, on the global map after its discovery. The giraffe, described as one of a kind, dazzled the local community, scientists and wildlife enthusiasts globally.
The giraffes likely had a genetic condition called leucism, which inhibits skin cells from producing pigment but allows other organs, like eyes, to be dark-colored. This differs slightly from albinism, which inhibits the body from producing pigment in all organs. Despite their inability to produce colorful pigments, giraffes and other animals with leucism don’t face genetic disadvantages to their survival.
Sadly in March 2020, wildlife officials announced that a female and her seven-month-old were found “in a skeletal state after being killed by armed poachers”, likely four months ago. A third white giraffe, the young male offspring of the dead female, is believed still to be alive.
The Tech Paradox
Such animals highlight the paradox of how tech can be used both to conserve such animals but at the same time put such animals at risk.
Whenever such rarities are encountered in nature, the first instinct is to take a picture and share the joy and wonder of the planet’s rarest creatures. This however exposes such animals to those who would like to either hunt them for sport or trophy. Images shared on digital media normally give away exact locations (through Geo tags on pics) of such animals making the work of the poachers easier in terms of track them.
However, tech can also go a long way in conserving this kind of animals. The technology deployed in this area has evolved into efficient and affordable methods. In this case and point, simple tagging and tracking would have gone a long way. The giraffes in this case were discovered months after they were poached, meaning that the culprits would have been long gone. The use of technology to always know the whereabouts of these animals, checking their health status and tracing their migratory routed would have come in hand in this situation. Such methods have been deployed in other areas within the country and proven a success.
We hope that as a country we learn from this and move forward, taking advantage of the tools we have at our disposal to enrich our biodiversity and maintain that which we already have.