18 Stunningly Rare Albino Animals

An albino snake looks ahead.

Tambako The Jaguar / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 

In the animal world, color is key. Sometimes color may reveal an animal's sex, as with the bird kingdom, where male birds tend to be more colorful than females. Sometimes color can be a warning sign to stay away, such as with poison dart frogs or venomous coral snakes. And of course, many animals use their colors for protection — to camouflage themselves while hunting or to avoid being eaten.

So what happens when an animal is born as an albino and lacks the ability to produce melanin, which is what makes those defining colors in an animal's skin, eyes, or fur? What does it mean when an albino turtle can't blend into a bed of seaweed or an albino alligator can't hide within the murky depths of a swamp? Unfortunately, it often means these animals don't survive long in the wild, as they can more easily be seen by both predators and prey. And the lack of pigment can also cause albinos to have poor eyesight, making it difficult to spot a hunter or their next meal.

Here are 18 rare albino animals, many of which are in captivity for their protection.

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Alligator

An albino alligator lounges in its habitat.

Buyenlarge / Getty images

These two albino alligators reside at the Alligator Bay zoological park in France, but the U.S. has some, too. One of the most famous (named Claude) is a popular attraction at the California Academy of Sciences. Curiously, many albino alligators were found year after year in one particular nest in Louisiana.

About 80 percent of alligator hatchlings don't make it to adulthood, and albino alligators especially don't survive long in the wild. Even if they manage to escape predators (such as birds, raccoons, bobcats, large fish, and other alligators), their pale skin leaves them vulnerable to sunburns.

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Hummingbird

An albino hummingbird in flight.

Steve Byland / Shutterstock

The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the most common hummingbird species in North America, and albinos of this species have pinkish eyes, feet and bills.

Albinism in birds is known to occur in 17 of 30,000 individuals, or one in 1,764 birds birthed. So if you see one while taking a stroll someday, count yourself lucky!

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Ferret

An albino ferret squinting on sandy ground.

Tambako The Jaguar /  Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

In general, ferrets don't have great vision — they're nearsighted and see best in low light. Given that albinos of any species tend to have eyesight problems, this combination is a double-whammy for ferrets. In fact, prolonged exposure to sunlight can damage an albino ferret's eyes. One study found some hope for these bright white critters – they were able to perform visual movement tests almost as well as their pigmented counterparts.

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Squirrel

An albino squirrel plucking berries from branch.

Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock

If you see an all-white squirrel with pink or red eyes like this one, that's how you know that it's really albino. All-white squirrels with dark eyes are likely not albino, but leucistic. Leucism is a partial loss of pigmentation, which can make the animal have white or patchy-colored skin, hair, or feathers. However, the pigment in the eyes are notably not affected by the condition, unlike with albinism.

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Rattlesnake

An albino rattlesnake coiled in rocky crevice.

dbarronoss / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Albino rattlesnakes are at a great disadvantage — they're easily spotted by predators as well as prey. This means they aren't able to survive for long in the wild. They have white underbellies along with yellowish scales.

Albino western diamond backs, for example, can be distinguished from their traditional counterparts by how their telltale diamond patterning appears in deep yellow tones: Normally, these aggressively defensive snakes have a chalky gray-brown to dull red coloring featuring their namesake diamond pattern. 

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Gorilla

Snowflake the gorilla holing a rope.

Ettore Balocchi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

 

This is Snowflake, an albino gorilla that used to live in Spain's Barcelona Zoo. He was euthanized in 2003 after being diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer, likely caused by his albinism. He was the world's only known white gorilla.

In a scientific first, researchers sequenced his genome. Then, they made another more surprising discovery – that Snowflake was inbred. This find represents the first evidence of inbreeding in wild Western lowland gorillas.

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Turtle

An albino turtle on green grass.

NajaShots / Getty Images

A rare albino turtle like this one was reportedly spotted right after it hatched on a beach in Queensland, Australia. Onlookers noted that the creature seems to have stayed in the nest a few days longer than its more colorful siblings.

Queensland's Threatened Species Unit chief scientist, Dr. Col Limpus, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that an albino turtle birth was extremely rare, saying it only occurred in "one in many hundreds of thousands of eggs that are laid."

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Kangaroo

An albino kangaroo carrying her joey.

Peter Parks / Getty Images

Even for Australians who see kangaroos every day, it's rare to see an albino kangaroo in the wild. These white 'roos have a genetic predisposition for vision and hearing problems, making them especially vulnerable to predators. The albino mother kangaroo pictured here, which stands about five feet tall, gave birth to a normally colored joey, seen in her pouch.

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Zebra

An albino zebra grazing on grass.

Ryan M. Bolton / Shutterstock

It's easy to see why albino zebras are sometimes called golden zebras. Albino zebras can range in color from this tan shade to almost completely white, but they always retain a faint stripe pattern. On dry, dusty plains, this coloring may actually help them blend in more with the environment.

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Buffalo

A young albino buffalo looks back at the camera.

Chokchai Silarug / Getty Images

The National Buffalo Museum in North Dakota has been home to a few albino buffalo. The longest lived among them, named White Cloud, was born in 1996 and lived among the museum's herd for 19 years before passing away in 2016. She gave birth to 11 calves, including a white bison named Dakota Miracle. While it is unknown exactly how rare white bison are, they are definitely quite uncommon. However, near-mythological claims of the rarity of their occurrence have been refuted.

Many Native Americans consider white bison to be sacred, and the Legend of the White Buffalo story has been passed down through generations for thousands of years.

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Snail

Albino snails climbing on top of one another.

velvetes / Shutterstock

In 2011, a giant carnivorous albino snail was found in New Zealand. It was supposedly only the second one ever recorded. While albino snails may be kept as pets, their darker-colored comrades are the ones people prefer to eat. Like other albino species, albino snails are easy prey for birds and other predators.

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Lobster

A rare albino white lobster at an aquarium.

Wayne Hopkins / Flickr

In 2021, a fishery in Boston caught an extremely rare albino lobster, which is impressive given that the odds of a lobster being albino are about one in 100,000,000.

A few years earlier in 2014, two Maine fisherman each caught a so-called "crystal" lobster in the same week. These unique lobsters were lucky in another way, too — they were all spared the pot.

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Fishing Cat

A white fishing cat paces in a cage.

Munir Uz Zaman / Getty Images

Fishing cats are listed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN, and this white one in Bangladesh is extremely rare.

According to a 2012 research paper, four albino fishing cats were captured during an 18-month span around 2001 in the Haor Basin of Bangladesh, which suggested that albinism "may be somewhat established in this population."

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Blackbird

An albino blackbird perching on grass.

Bill Schofield / Flickr

If you saw a white bird fly into your garden, would you ever guess that it might be an albino blackbird? One family in England saw one swoop into their garden, and luckily, they were able to identify and appreciate the unusual bird. Being a pure white color doesn't bode well for the blackbird's survival, especially as a small fledgling. The conspicuous color will draw the attention of predators like cats and sparrowhawks once the vulnerable fledging attempts to leave the nest, in addition to the eye problems that come with albinism.

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Monkey

An albino monkey sitting and eating with another monkey.

Alexander Joe / Getty Images

A rare albino Vervet monkey in Livingstone, Zambia, was first spotted as a baby in 2005. Locals say he seems to spend a lot of time alone, unlike normal Vervet monkeys, but he can run and climb trees as quickly as his playmates.

In China's Guangxi, Albino monkeys were spotted near a mountainous area in 2017 and 2019. But these weren't just any monkeys — they're François's langurs, an incredibly endangered species. With fewer than 2,000 remaining in the wild, these monkeys are truly a sight to behold.

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Donkey

A group of albino donkeys rub heads together.

Angelo Cucca / Getty Images

The Asinara donkey is a type of feral donkey that lives on the island of Asinara, which lies off the northwest coast of Sardinia, Italy. Almost the entire population — about 120 donkeys — is albino, and the few gray donkeys among the herd are thought to carry the albino gene.

The island, which used to be a World War I prison camp housing more than 24,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners, now has national park status and is a popular destination for tourists.

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Skunk

An albino skunk drinks from water.

michaklootwijk / Getty Images

Imagine you're in your yard, maybe the light is dim, and you spot what you think is a white cat. You go over to pet the nice kitty only to be greeted by the most foul-smelling spray you can imagine. This is the "danger" of albino skunks — they lack the trademark coloring that lets other creatures know to stay away.

In 2017, Forests, Fish and Wildlife officers from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island posted a nighttime photo of an albino skunk that they spotted jaunting about in the dark. "This is the first one I personally have heard about," one department officer told reporters.

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Raccoon

An albino racoon curled up on a rock.

apple2499 / Shutterstock

In 2015, an albino raccoon was captured in Valparaiso, Indiana, and brought to the Moraine Ridge Wildlife Center for treatment. Raccoons normally live only two or three years, and this one was at least that old, according to Stephanie Kadletz, the center's director. This was surprising because albino raccoons often do not survive in the wild, as they lack the camouflage that protects them from predators, Kadletz said; they also may not be able to mate because they can be rejected by their species.