Albinism is a congenital disorder meaning that the there is an absence or defect of the enzyme that is involved in the production of melanin. This is characterised by either the complete or partial absence of pigment I the skin, hair and eyes. It is a result of the inheritance of recessive gene alleles and is believed to be able to affect all vertebrates including humans. The animal or person affected is commonly termed ‘albino’ although animals are also sometimes referred to as ‘albinoid’ and ‘albinic’.
Snowflake the gorilla is one of the most famous albino animals of all time. He was captured in Equatorial Guinea in October 1966 by an ethnic Fang farmer named Benito Mane. Mane killed all of Snowflake’s group, who were all black in colour, in order to get hold of him. Originally named Nfumu Ngui (meaning white gorilla) by Mane he was bought by Sabater Pi for Barcelona Zoo and re-named Snowflake. He was a popular attraction at the zoo and is believed to be one of the most photographed animals of all time. Snowflake died in 2003 from skin cancer but not before thousands of people has come to visit him and say goodbye.
Another famous albino animal is a resident of San Diego Zoo. Born in 1997, Onya-Birri is an albino koala. Onya-Birri is an Aboriginal phrase meaning ‘ghost boy’. His arrival was completely unexpected as it wasn’t known that either of his grey coloured parents carried the gene so keepers were very surprised when he first emerged from his mother’s pouch with white fur and a pink nose and eyes. They hoped though that the white coloured koala would help get people interested in the koala’s plight and boost funding towards protecting the koala’s natural habitat, whilst being a valuable addition to their breeding and research program.
Another ambassador for his species and famous albino is Migaloo the humpbacked whale. Although still not officially classified as albino and instead referred to as hypo-pigmented, he has become famous around the world, with many websites and Facebook pages dedicated to him. First spotted in 1991 off the East coast of Australia , Migaloo has been spotted regularly since travelling up and down the coast of Australia during the whale migration season. It is hoped that rare whales like Migaloo will help in the campaigns against whaling.
Another rare albino is Ruby the lobster, a resident of the Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre in England . Albino lobsters are extremely rare as the odds of them being born are 1 in 30 million. It is hoped that many tourists will get to see Ruby over her life-time, which could span to 100 years.
Another albino animal attracting visitors is an albino peacock at Wingham Bird Park in Canterbury in England . Sadly, although his pure white plumage is very attractive to people and considered beautiful, albino peacocks missing their usual bright colours will often struggle to attract females and mate.
Although albinism is a rare genetic condition, rarer amongst some species than others, there are many albino animals either living in captivity or spotted in the wild. As well as all the other ghosts of the wild mentioned above other albino animals include zebra, otters, snakes, deer, kangaroo, hedgehogs, squirrels, frogs and skunks.