Have you ever seen an all-white panda that was missing its trademark markings? Well, images of the world’s first all-white albino panda have finally been released by scientists at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China. The panda was caught on camera in April by the reserve’s motion-activated cameras.
In an official statement released by Wolong, they’re estimating the panda is between one and two years old and that it seems to be in overall good health, judging by its size and gait. Experts are stipulating that this could be the first albino giant panda ever recorded.
Meet The Albino Panda
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are just under 2000 giant pandas left in the wild, making an albino giant panda an extremely rare sighting. Giant pandas are native to China, and they have been observed and protected at Wolong since the late 1970s.
The all-white panda is lacking the typical black markings of other giant pandas and has the reddish colored eyes that trademark albinism. Based on the photo, experts are estimating that the condition has not affected the panda’s physical health and is simply a cosmetic effect.
Wolong National Nature Reserve
The Wolong National Nature Reserve is a protected area in the Sichuan Province of China. It started on an area of about 20,000 hectares, and has now grown to cover about 200,000 hectares in the Qionglai Mountains region.
The Reserve is home to about 4,000 different species, including snow leopards, golden monkeys, and red pandas. According to a Chinese National Giant Panda Survey, Wolong is home to about 150 of the world’s giant pandas population.
What Causes Albinism?
Albinism is a rare genetic condition in which there is a complete or partial lack of the skin pigment melanin or a reduced amount of melanin production. This results in an all-white coloring of the skin, hair, or eyes. It is also commonly associated with vision problems.
It is estimated by the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation that about 1 in 18,000 to 20,000 people in the U.S. are born with some form of albinism, whether partial or complete.
Albinism In Animals
Albinism in animals is rare, but because every animal produces melanin, it could affect any species. There have been recorded cases of albinism occurring in animals like alligators, lions, snakes, frogs, kangaroos, cats, even caribou!
It’s important to note though that just because an animal is white, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically classified as an albino animal. For example, did you know that a polar bear isn’t actually white? Their skin is black and the fur is actually see-through!
Downsides To Albinism For Animals
Animals who have albinism are at greater risk in the wild from a predatory standpoint, as well as from a hunting and gathering perspective. Due to their brighter coloring, albino animals are more vulnerable to predators because of their inability to camouflage themselves from both animals predators and poachers.
Additionally, their worsened eyesight can make it harder to hunt for food and they can die off sooner than other animals. In some cases, non-profits have been known to create sanctuaries for albino animals to increase their chances of survival.