Pink Hippo and 6 Other Rare Animal Sightings in Kenya [PHOTOS]

  • A Pink Hippo pictured in the Mara River. Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas.
    A Pink Hippo pictured in the Mara River.
    Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas.
  • Kenya's vast collection of rare flora and fauna is an open secret, making it one of the leading tourist destinations in the world.

    Over the years, there have been sightings of animals in the country that made global headlines due to the sheer one-in-a-million chances of spotting the rare creatures.

    On October 17, 2010, the entire world was in awe as two brothers, Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas, shared the first-ever photos of a pink Hippotatomus in Kenya.

    The two couldn't believe their luck as they were camped on the banks of the River Mara to witness the majestic Wildebeest migration (one of the 8 wonders of the world).

    A Wildebeest herd on the move in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
    A Wildebeest herd on the move in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
    KWS

    Suddenly, from the deep and crocodile-infested waters, the majestic beast emerged, nonchalant in all its pink splendour.

    According to reports, the unique colour is down to a condition called Leucism which is characterised by reduced pigmentation in animals.

    However, the rare pink hippo was most likely cast out by its conventionally coloured peers, which explains the rare survival rate of hippos with Leucism.

    Here are 6 other rare animal sightings that placed Kenya firmly on the world map, as the 'go to' destination;

    A Zonkey Spotted in Tsavo

    On April 8, 2020, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT), one of Africa’s oldest wildlife charities, shared some stunning photos of a Zonkey.

    This rare animal can be simply described as an unusual hybrid between a zebra and a donkey.

    The cute foal and its mother were spotted at the Kenze Anti-Poaching Team’s base in Chyulu National Park.

    Interestingly, a year earlier, the Zebra had wandered out of the vast Tsavo East National Park, and made herself right at home as part of a local woman's cattle herd in Mutomo.

    The Zonkey and its mum pictured at the Kenze Anti-Poaching Team’s base in Chyulu National Park in April 2020.
    The Zonkey and its mum pictured at the Kenze Anti-Poaching Team’s base in Chyulu National Park in April 2020.
    Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

    The Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and SWT were soon called in to help relocate her, only for her to be spotted alongside her newborn zonkey 12 months later (which just happens to be the gestation period of a zebra).

    The young foal's combination of the sturdy body of its donkey sire and the striped legs of its zebra mother made it a striking creature unlike any other.

    Polka-Dotted Zebra

    Sticking to the Zebra-theme, Kenya’s legendary Masai Mara National Reserve once again made global news after a zebra foal with a dark coat and white polka dots was spotted.

    Photographer Frank Liu was traversing the lush Mara grasslands in search of rhinos when he came across the stunning foal that has since been named Tira - after a Maasai tour guide.

    Tira walks through Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve with her mother.
    Tira walks through Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve with her mother.
    Frank Liu

    For a second, he thought he had discovered a totally new species of herbivore, before the foal trotted to its mother.

    Tira’s odd coloration could be the first recorded observation in the Masai Mara.

    According to biologist Ren Larison, the foal's unique colour is the result of a condition known as pseudomelanism, a rare genetic mutation in which animals display some sort of abnormality in their stripe pattern.

    Black Panther
    Ok, it's actually referred to as a melanistic leopard, but black panther sounds so much cooler.

    On February 11, 2019, British wildlife photographer, Will Burrard-Lucas, captured a series of high-quality images of the magnificent and rare leopard close to the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.

    The animal is so iconic that there's a whole movie themed around it.

    Interestingly, the black panther movie is based within the fictitious land of ‘Wakanda’ in East Africa, the same region in which the actual black panther was spotted. 

    A wild melanistic leopard (loosely referred to as a black panther) pictured close to the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.
    A wild melanistic leopard (loosely referred to as a black panther) pictured close to the Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya.
    Will Burrard-Lucas

    A Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) official, Paul Gathitu divulged to Kenyans.co.ke that his colleagues had also come across melanistic leopards in the Aberdare forest during a fencing exercise.

    Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Annabelle Carey (who runs the Laikipia Wilderness Camp ) was audibly excited when asked about the rare sighting of the melanistic leopard close to their camp. She also affirmed Will’s short yet record-setting stay at their camp.

    White giraffe

    On June 30, a rare white giraffe was spotted outside the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in Ijara within Garissa County.

    “Wow is pretty much the only way to sum up a towering sight like this! Spotted earlier today. Isn’t this an impressive way to end the month?," KWS tweeted.

    White giraffe photographed in Ishaqbini Conservancy, Garissa County.
    White giraffe photographed in Ishaqbini Conservancy, Garissa County.

    The siting came just a few month since a similar giraffe and her calf were killed by poachers. 

    Sadly the two were the only family the last remaining white bull giraffe had and were classified as among the rarest giraffes to walk the planet.

    Just like the pink hippo, scientists pegged the giraffes' rare colour to leucism.

    Aardvark (the animal that opens every English dictionary)

    This nocturnal creature spends the hot African afternoon holed up in cool underground burrows dug by their powerful feet and claws, making it one of the rarest animals to spot while on safari.

    The bizarre creature uses its ribbon-like 30cm-long tongue to gather up to 50,000 ants in a single night.

    An Aardvark pictured in at Kenya Game Reserve.
    An Aardvark pictured in at Kenya Game Reserve.
    KWS

    It has an entire scientific order to itself. It is the only species in the genus Orycteropus, which is the only genus in the family Orycteropidae. This, in turn, is the only family in the order Tubulidentata.

    Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle

    This has been dubbed as one of the most elusive eagles, with one lucky birdwatcher getting a glimpse of it in Mt Kenya's thick forest canopy.

    It is a true forest species, hunting through the canopy in and out of dappled sunlight, using foliage and the dark and light of the forest to hunt its prey.

    It is thought to hunt tree squirrels and small to medium forest mammals. Listed as rare to uncommon creature, it is generally associated with the rainforests of the Congo Basin from Nigeria to western Uganda.

    The most recent sighting was of an adult female observed, filmed and photographed by Nick Trent on August 4, 2019 while ascending the track through the sub-montane forest of the Chogoria Route on Mt. Kenya’s eastern slopes.

    A Cassins Eagle perched on a tree in the Mt Kenya forest.
    A Cassins Eagle perched on a tree in the Mt Kenya forest.
    Nick Trent