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Interesting Facts About Albino Animals

Ashmeet Bagga
Have you ever noticed an animal which is completely white in color and has pink or light-blue eyes? Well, if you did, then it might well be an albino animal. This story brings you the causes of albinism and a few albino animals facts.

A Rare Occurrence

Expert ornithologists discovered that albinism occurs in 1 out of every 2,000 birds, this proves that the condition is very rare in our feathered friends.
Generally, we teach kids about colors through pictures of stuff around us, this includes plants and animals. Kids too, begin identifying animals by their shape and color. For e.g., a striped tiger, or a black chimp, or a green crocodile.

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Though nature has blessed every creature on this planet with its own unique color, some are not so fortunate, and those few have what is called albinism.
Albinism is derived from the Latin word Albus, which means white. Albinos lack the pigment melanin, or to put it simply, the ability to produce skin color, hence, their skin is white or colorless. This defect occurs due to the inheritance of recessive gene alleles.
Albinism is not just restricted to humans, it can affect animals and plants too. Albino animals are known to be more vulnerable in comparison to others, due to their inability to blend in the environment, which makes them an easy prey.
They share similar characteristics with other animals of their species, the only difference being their color, or rather lack of it. Animals with albinism have little or no pigment in their body. Their eyes, skin and, hair are affected the most.
Let's take a closer look at such animals through this AnimalSake article. We have also mentioned certain famous albino animals that have grabbed human attention.

Albino Animals Facts

Some people are known to worship albino animals, they believe such animals bring good luck and, some cultures take precautionary measures to protect such animals from being hunted.

Appearance

When it comes to appearance, they look almost similar, except for the color and their eyes, and in some cases tails. But a point to be noted here is that, not all white animals are albinos, for example, a polar bear is white in color.
The color of the eyes differentiate albinos from other animals. Albinos have pink or blue eyes, their eyelashes too are white. Their eye color is pink because of the blood vessels retained in the retina. Not all albinos may be completely white, some animals like frogs or birds have patches or streaks of color on their body.
Albinism can occur in every animal that produces melanin, this includes mammals, birds, reptiles, and just about every species. Even domestic animals like rats, rabbits, and cows. Researchers say that albino animals are easy to work with due to poor eyesight.

Health Issues

Albinos have poor eyesight due to the lack of melanin in their eyes. The melanin helps the eyes develop normally. They are not totally blind, but have poor vision. Lack of melanin leads to problems with focusing, depth perception, and tracking.
Another major issue is the exposure to the sun, long exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, so extra efforts are taken by their caretakers, mostly zoo people, to train such animals and to decrease their exposure to the sun, especially crocodiles since they love to bask in the sun for long hours.

Survival Rate

Due to the lack of color or a prominent color as white, an albino can easily fall prey to its hunter, but if the albino itself is the hunter, chances are very rare that he will be able to hunt easily, because its prey would easily spot it. Consequently, many albino animals die of starvation.
They also need to find a mate for reproduction, but many albinos are outcast by other animals due to the difference in color. Many birds don't find a mate, because they lack that particular feather or color characteristic which a bird is often attracted to.

Birth of an Albino

Like humans, animals inherit genes from their parents, if an animal is born with a damaged or altered tyrosinase, instead of a normal one, this will hamper the melanin production in the body, and that animal will become an albino.
It is not necessary that one parent has to be an albino for their offspring to be an albino, an albino can give birth to a normal animal.

Partial or Pure Albinos

Animals can be pure albinos or partial albinos. Pure albinos have pink eyes, nails, and, white skin, whereas partial albinos have patchy skin, meaning some portion of their bodies are white in color.
To further illustrate the difference, here is a small set of images of normal animals and their albino counterparts.
An albino crocodile and A normal crocodile
An albino porcupine and A normal porcupine
An albino rat and A gray rat
An albino and normal zebra

Famous Albino Animals

Snowflake, the gorilla

Known to be the world's only albino gorilla, Snowflake was born in the wild, later to be captured by the villagers in Equatorial Guinea, in 1966. He inherited this mutation from his parents. He spent the rest of his life in Barcelona zoo, and was believed to be 35-40 years old at the time of his death.
Researchers claim, he died due to skin cancer, a very common disease among albino animals. Snowflake had 21 children, and his great-grandson has pink fingers, which is a case of partial albinism.
Snowflake was famous all over the world, he was the main character of the novel Memories d'en floquet de Neu (Snowflake's Memories) by Catalan writer Toni Sala. In 2001, a documentary was made on his early life before he was kept at the zoo. He was said to have a good camera presence and even posed for photos.

Onya-Birri, the koala

Meaning "Ghost Boy" in the aboriginal language, this albino koala was born in the San Diego Zoo, in 1997, where he currently resides. His fur had an orange tint when he was a baby, but later on, he started losing his color. He feeds mostly on eucalyptus leaves and spends most of his time sleeping or eating, making him all the more adorable to visitors.

Albino Black Vulture

The only one known in existence, it is said to be the second albino vulture to have ever been spotted. Currently it resides at the World Bird Sanctuary in St.Louis, Missouri.

Pinky (Dolphin)

In 2007, Captain Erik Rue saw this dolphin in Lake Calcasieu, north of the Gulf of Mexico in Southwestern USA. This albino dolphin is pink in color with red eyes. Observers say that this dolphin tends to stay a little more below the surface than the other dolphins.

Claude, the alligator

Albino alligator Claude can be spotted The Swamp at the California Academy of Sciences. He is fairly popular with the students and public alike and is looked after by his caretakers. He just turned 15 this year.

Snowdrop, the penguin

Snowdrop the only known albino penguin was born in 2002, at the Bristol Zoo in England, he was one of the few albinos that lived long enough to become an adult, but, in August 2004, he suddenly died due to unknown causes. He was very popular with the visitors and caretakers at the zoo.

Migaloo, the humpback whale

He was the only known albino humpback until 2011, first spotted in 1991, he has been spotted every year since his discovery. Migaloo is protected under Australian law, and is purely white in color. He even has his own website Migaloowhale.
This is what happens when nature runs out of colors, but the sad part is they are beautiful to look at but can't see the beauty all around them. We, humans can help these animals by doing our bit to help them survive and lead healthy lives. Do let us know about if you have come across or seen an albino animal.