18 Stunningly Rare Albino Animals

Close-up of albino rattlesnake coiled up

P_Wei / Getty Images

In the animal kingdom, color is key. Sometimes it reveals an animal's sex, as with birds, and other times it's a warning sign, as is the case with poison dart frogs or venomous coral snakes. Of course, animals use their colors for protection, too, to camouflage themselves while hunting or to avoid becoming prey.

So, what happens when an animal lacks the ability to produce the melanin that makes those defining colors? Many of those animals have albinism, a genetic disorder that causes a lack of the pigment melanin, resulting in very light skin, eyes, and hair.

Here are 18 rare and beautiful albino animals.

1
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Alligator

An albino alligator lounges in its habitat.

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Two albino American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) 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. Probably because albinism can be inherited, many albino alligators were found year after year in a single nest in Louisiana.

Most alligator hatchlings are eaten before reaching 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.

2
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Hummingbird

An albino hummingbird in flight.

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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. To get an idea of how rare this is, the chance of a bird being albino is believed to be 0.0005%.

Only a few albino ruby-throated hummingbirds have been reported throughout history. Since 2019, they have been spotted in Ohio and Alabama, but those sightings were not expert-verified.

3
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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—making the visual challenges that come along with being albino a double-whammy and, in fact, dangerous. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can actually damage an albino ferret's eyes. Despite the defect, one study found that albino ferrets performed almost as well as their pigmented counterparts in visual movement tests.

4
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Squirrel

An albino squirrel plucking berries from branch.

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If you see an all-white squirrel with pink or red eyes, you know it's really albino. All-white squirrels with dark eyes are likely leucistic, not albino. 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.

Leucistic squirrels are more common than albino squirrels.

5
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Rattlesnake

An albino rattlesnake coiled in rocky crevice.

dbarronoss / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Albino rattlesnakes have white underbellies and yellowish scales. One species, the albino western diamondback, for example, can be distinguished from its traditional counterparts by how its 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. 

Arizona State University cared for one named Hector that died at the age of 25 in 2019. In 2021, a wild one was captured (and eventually released) in the Texas Hill Country region.

6
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Gorilla

Snowflake the gorilla holing a rope.

Ettore Balocchi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Snowflake is 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.

7
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Turtle

An albino turtle on green grass.

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In 2016, a rare albino turtle 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."

8
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Kangaroo

An albino kangaroo carrying her joey.

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Even for Australians who see kangaroos every day, it's rare to see one with all-white fur. These peculiar 'roos have a genetic predisposition for vision and hearing problems, making them especially vulnerable to predators.

In 2021, a white kangaroo named Cosmo was born at New York's Animal Adventure Park. The kangaroo was diagnosed with leucism, however, not albinism—it was clear by the dark eyes.

9
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Zebra

An albino zebra grazing on grass.

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This iteration of albinism might remind you of the Fruit Strip Gum you loved in the '90s. Here, the characteristic black stripes of the zebra are an orangey-gold color, inspiring the nickname "golden zebra." Albino zebras can range in color from this tan shade to almost completely white, but they always retain a faint stripe pattern.

Zebras are one of the only animal species that might benefit from albinism. On dry, dusty plains, this coloring may actually help them blend in more with the environment.

10
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Buffalo

A young albino buffalo looks back at the camera.

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The National Buffalo Museum in North Dakota has cared for a few albino buffalo in its day. The longest-lived among them, named White Cloud, was born in 1996 and lived alongside the museum's herd for 19 years before dying in 2016. She gave birth to 11 calves, including a white bison named Dakota Miracle.

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.

11
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Snail

Albino snails climbing on top of one another.

velvetes / Shutterstock

Do not confuse the albino snail with an all-white species of snail aptly called the white garden snail (Theba pisana). 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.

12
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Lobster

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 million.

A few years earlier in 2014, two Maine fisherman each caught so-called "crystal" lobsters in the same week. These unique lobsters were lucky to be such an extraordinary color, yes, but in another way, too: Their albinism kept them from becoming food.

13
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Fishing Cat

A white fishing cat paces in a cage.

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Fishing cats are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and their populations are continuously declining. That makes fishing cats with albinism even more rare.

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

In the years since, experts have lumped albino fishing cats into a broader group of animals that have a condition called pseudomelanism. This rare genetic mutation causes the animals to display abnormalities, like polka dots on a zebra (yes, that happened!). Other pseudomelanistic animals include the white-phased spirit black bear, leucistic dolphins, and erythristic leopards.

14
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Blackbird

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.

15
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Monkey

An albino monkey sitting and eating with another monkey.

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A rare albino Vervet monkey was first spotted as a baby in Livingstone, Zambia, in 2005. Locals said he seemed to spend a lot of time alone, unlike normal Vervet monkeys, but he could 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. They weren't aren't just any monkeys, either; they were endangered François's langurs. With as few as 2,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild, these monkeys are truly a sight to behold.

16
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Donkey

White donkeys grazing in meadow of wildflowers

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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 140 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 tourist destination.

17
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Skunk

Close-up of skunk on a bank drinking water

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The "danger" of albino skunks is that they lack the trademark coloring that lets other creatures—including humans—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, and it looked remarkably like a cat. Officers told local media it was the first time they had ever seen one.

Sightings seem to be less rare, however, in Greer, South Carolina. In fact, albino skunks are supposedly so common that an annual music festival is named after them.

18
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Raccoon

An albino racoon curled up on a rock.

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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 the center's director, Stephanie Kadletz. This was especially surprising because albino raccoons face many challenges in the wild. They lack the camouflage that protects them from predators and also may not be able to mate if they get rejected by their species.

According to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which has its own albino raccoon, only one in every 10,000 to 20,000 raccoons is born with albinism.

Why Are So Many Albino Animals Kept in Captivity?

An albino turtle can't blend into a bed of seaweed. An albino alligator can't hide within the murky depths of a swamp. These animals, although rare and treasured by humans, face a whole range of challenges other members of their species don't have to think about.

 Unfortunately, these challenges make surviving in the wild all the more difficult. On top of sticking out like a sore thumb, albinism is also packaged with poor vision. Eye pigmentation is essential for vision, and this genetic condition often causes flaws in the visual pathways that connect the eyes to the brain. Now, imagine being unable to hide and unable to spot predators coming. For these reasons, many albino animals are kept in captivity for protection.

View Article Sources
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