20 Stunningly Rare Albino Animals

Albino snake on a black background
Photo: fivespots/Shutterstock

In the animal world, color is key. Sometimes color may reveal a gender, 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's a collection of photos of rare albino animals — many of them in captivity for their protection — to show just how gorgeous a lack of pigment can be.

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Alligators

Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP/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, and many were found year after year in one particular nest in Louisiana.

About 80 percent of alligator hatchlings don't make it to adulthood, according to Smithsonian National Zoological Park, 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.

Interesting side note: If you Google "albino alligator," most of the results will be about a 1996 movie of the same name and a line in Beyonce's "Formation."

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Porcupine

Photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

Rates of albinism vary between animal groups, but it's rare nonetheless. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, "researchers working with mammals estimate that true albinos occur in about one in 10,000 births. Some of our Conservation Department hatcheries have seen albino catfish produced as frequently as one in 20,000 fish."

A New Hampshire woman was lucky enough to spot an albino porcupine like the one pictured here having lunch in her yard, and she caught it on video.

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Hedgehog

Photo: cs333/Shutterstock

Albinism doesn't change an animal's behavior, so if you're considering a pet hedgehog, an albino one should be just as cute and curious as a normally colored hedgehog. The only difference? It may cost twice as much because they're so rare.

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Hummingbird

Photo: Steve Byland/Shutterstock

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

Some researchers working with birds say albinism occurs in 17 of 30,000 individuals, or one of 1,764 birds, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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Ferret

Photo: Jagodka/Shutterstock

Ferrets in general 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.

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Squirrel

Photo: Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock

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 patchily colored skin, hair or feathers, but the pigment cells in the eyes are not affected by the condition. However, squirrels with pink or red eyes, like this one, are albino.

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Rattlesnake

Photo: fivespots/Shutterstock

Albino Western diamondback rattlesnakes are at a great disadvantage in the wild as they're easily spotted by predators and usually don't live long. Normally, these aggressively defensive snakes appear chalky gray-brown to a dull red with (as its name suggests) a diamond pattern on their backs. But albino rattlesnakes are a pale yellow and white instead.

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Gorilla

Photo: Cesar Rangel/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Turtle

Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

In February, a rare albino turtle like this one was spotted right after it hatched on a beach in Queensland, Australia. CNN reports the creature stayed in the nest 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 "probably occurs at the rate of one in many hundreds of thousands of eggs that are laid."

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Kangaroo

Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Even for Australians who see kangaroos every day, it's rare to see an albino kangaroo in the wild, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 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

Photo: 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. And on the dry, dusty plains, this coloring may actually help them blend in more with the environment.

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Buffalo

Photo: AkeTangZa/Shutterstock

The National Buffalo Museum in North Dakota is home to a few albino buffalo. The oldest one, named White Cloud, was born in 1996 and has lived among the museum's herd for 19 years. She gave birth to 11 calves, including a white bison in 2007 named Dakota Miracle. According to the National Bison Association, just one out of every 10 million buffalo born are white.

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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Snails

Photo: velvetes/Shutterstock

In 2011, a giant carnivorous albino snail was found in New Zealand. It was only the second one ever recorded, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. 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

Photo: YouTube

In 2012, a fisherman in Gloucester, Massachusetts, caught an albino lobster and posted his discovery on YouTube. In the video below, Capt. Joe says this is the third one he's seen in his lifetime, which is impressive given the odds of a lobster being albino are about 1 in 100,000,000.

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

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Fishing cats are endangered, and this white one in Bangladesh is extremely rare. “I’ve never seen a white fishing cat and, while any species of cat can have an albino turn up, they are extremely rare,” Mel Sunquist, co-author of "Wild Cats of the World," told National Geographic.

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, "suggesting that albinism may be somewhat established in this population."

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Blackbird

Photo: Radek Mica/AFP/Getty Images

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. Steve Hussey from the Devon Wildlife Trust in England told the Mirror: "Being pure white isn't a great survival strategy for a blackbird, particularly as a fledgling. When you've just left the nest, you want to be as inconspicuous as possible to avoid the predatory eyes of cats and sparrowhawks. Added to this, part of the condition of albinos often means they have poor or little eyesight. I fear that this little chap's life was probably a very brief one."

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Monkey

Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

This 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.

More recently, another albino monkey was spotted near Victoria Falls Waterfront Lodge in Zambia, and the hotel posted photos to Facebook in hopes of naming their visitor.

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Donkeys

Photo: Angelo Cucca/AFP/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 100 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

Photo: YouTube

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.

Interesting side note: If you Google "albino skunk," you'll mostly get results about a music festival in South Carolina.

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Raccoon

Photo: 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, Stephanie Kadletz, the center's director, told the Northwest Indiana Times. 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, and they may not be able to mate because they can be rejected by their species.

Another albino raccoon was trapped in Indiana in 2014. (That makes two ... maybe it's a trend?)