Photographer Captures Extremely Rare Albino Elephant Frolicking In A Wildlife Park
One of the things that I love most about this big, beautiful world we live in is all the colors that surround us. The inviting greens of a forest, the soft, shaggy brown of my neighbor’s adorable terrier, the brilliant red plumage of a cardinal – these are just a small sampling of the many hues in Mother Nature’s palette. While Mother Nature is often known to go pretty liberal with colors (look at a peacock’s feathers if you don’t believe me), there are also instances in which something has no color at all, which we’ve come to call “albinism.”
Albinism refers to a condition found in animals or humans (and possibly plants too, depending on which biologist you speak to) where the normal production/distribution of pigments (usually melanin) does not occur. It is a congenital defect that usually results in the individual in question having totally white skin, lips, and hair. Another indicator of albinism is having red eyes, and some biologists say that this is possibly the best indicator of the condition. It is believed that due to the lack of pigment, there is nothing to hide/overlap the various capillaries that supply blood to the eyes, resulting in a reddish tint.
Some experts estimate that 1 in 10,000 mammals are born with albinism. The condition also occurs in other animals such as reptiles or birds, but these are usually tied to a lack of pigments other than melanin. As most official definitions of albinism use melanin as the marker, classifying non-mammalian species with alternate pigments becomes tricky using the current definition. Albinism is generally rare in the animal kingdom (other than lab mice, who are selectively bred for it), largely due to the fact that the lack of color offers little protection from harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Additionally, albino animals tend to stick out like a sore thumb, making an especially easy target for predators.
Recently, Nicki Coertze, a tourist and photographer, was on an African safari when he saw what is easily a once-in-a-lifetime sighting: an adorable pink baby elephant, happily playing around with the rest of the herd. The baby is an albino, and Coertze’s photos of it quickly went viral.
The baby takes a drink from the river, staying close to Mom at all times. Albinism is pretty rare amongst African elephants, but in this particular case it’s just too cute!
Growing up an albino can be tough. Not only could this calf have potentially been rejected by the herd, it’s also a very easy and vulnerable target for predators and poachers.
Thankfully, these elephants reside in the safety of a national park, so at least there won’t be any dangers from human hunters and poachers.
Over time, the lack of pigmentation could cause sun damage, and many albino animals also suffer from blindness later on in life.
For now though, this adorable calf is having a great time frolicking by the water with the rest of the herd.
58-year-old Nicki Coertze, who took these photos, says he’s been coming to the park regularly since he was a kid. In all that time, he’s never seen an albino elephant.
Truly, this was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting.
Here’s hoping this baby grows up to be healthy and happy. I’m definitely really glad it was accepted by the herd despite looking so different.