Vitiligo is a skin condition that can cause the skin to lose its natural pigmentation color in blotches, which then grow to larger surface areas. The condition can also have an extensive effect on the surrounding hair.
One of the most well-known documented cases of vitiligo was in the late popular pop singer Michael Jackson, but for the first time, this skin condition has been reported in a giraffe in the Soysambu Conservancy in Kenya. The findings appear in the African Journal of Ecology.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
There have been recorded instances of giraffes with leucistic or albino qualities before, but these are totally different from a giraffe with vitiligo because leucistic or albino animals are born white, while those with vitiligo turn white over time.
"There have been a few reports of white giraffes before in the wild, but those animals are either albino or leucistic, which means they are born white and have been that way for their entire life,” says Zoe Muller of the Rothschild’s Giraffe Project and the University of Bristol, UK. “There has never been a documented case of a giraffe turning white over time.”
“I first started to see a few white spots appear on the animal’s coat back in November 2009, and was puzzled as I had never seen this before,” she continued.
The documented case of vitiligo in this particular giraffe is believed to be because of a skin infection that has gradually gotten worse over the course of several years. The animal’s appearance is becoming more defined as time goes by.
White animals, such as those with leucism or albinism, tend to live shorter lives because they’re more easily targeted by predators or suffer conditions from the Sun’s harmful rays. In this case, the animal is still half white and half normal-colored for now, but some day it’ll be no more protected than any other case of animal with leucism or albinism.
Source: New Scientist, Wikipedia