Albinism is the total or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to a defect in the production of melanin.
Albino animals are extremely rare, only one in every 10.000 born is albino.
Being an albino for an animal is not the same as being “all white” and the easiest way to recognize a true albino animal is observing its eyes: albinos have no natural pigmentation and their eyes are pink or red. White animals with blue eyes are called leucistic.
Many albino animals born in the wild do not survive because they cannot hide from their enemies. Often other animals of the same species reject them. The sun is also very dangerous to many of them because their skin has no way of protecting itself against the sun radiation.
One of the most incredible specimens of white animals is Migaloo, a white humpback whale that is seen off the coast of Australia on its annual migration. Migaloo is a male and his name means “white fella” in the language of the aborigines of Australia.
Unfortunately it was observed that he seems to suffer from skin cancer. In some cases in fact the lack of melanin can cause defects in vision and susceptibility to skin diseases such as cancer.
Just two days ago another white humpback whale was spotted off the coast of Norway. This whale however is not albino but leucistic, it seems, and he was photographed by a maritime engineer who could not believe his luck.
Maybe “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville is a true story after all!