Cute But Challenged: The Difficult Life Of Albino Animals

Published October 3, 2021
Updated November 10, 2021

Albino animals look cute, but the lack of melanin in their bodies causes a fair amount of hardship for these pigment-challenged creatures.

Albino animals look cute, but the lack of melanin in their bodies causes a fair amount of hardship for these pigment-challenged creatures. The complex polymer determines skin and hair color, and can impact vision and its development.

This means that in addition to being far easier to spot by potential predators and prey, albino animals struggle with basic survival skills. Here are some of the common plights of albino animals, and other facts about their unique lives:

Albino Animals
About 1 in 10,000 animals are born with albinism. Imgur

Albino Animals Peacock
The term derives from the Latin word Albus, meaning “white”. Flickr/Brian Burger

Donkey With Albinism
To have albinism, an organism must inherit one or more defective genes that makes it impossible to produce normal amounts of melanin, a pigment that colors skin and hair.Flickr/Roberto Cossu

White Porcupine
Animals lacking this pigment can either be pure or partial albinos, depending on how defective their inherited genes are. Wikimedia Commons

Albino Animals Pictures
In snakes, partial albinism is more common than full albinism. Pixabay

White Turtle
Albino turtles tend to have yellowish shells and pink eyes. Wikimedia Commons

In addition to the aesthetic effects albinism has on animals, it also affects their physical development. Wikimedia Commons

Kitten With Albinism
The absence of melanin in the eyes results in abnormal development, which often means that those with albinism struggle with depth perception. Pixabay

Albino Squirrel
Some animals aren't as negatively physically impacted by albinism, like the squirrel. Its retina differs from all other mammals, so albinism affects their eyesight less than normal. Flickr/Peter Trimming

Albino Animals Catfish
Fish, like this catfish, aren't as affected, either. They don’t have melanin in their inner ear, meaning that their hearing is less likely to be affected by albinism than in mammals. Wikipedia

Many albinos classified as predators die from starvation because they lack their natural color camouflage. Would-be prey can easily see them coming, and therefore have time to plot an escape. Wikipedia

Albino Deer Picture
Likewise, animals that are more likely to be prey lack the natural coloring that helps them hide from predators, so they are more apt to be seen and killed. Flickr/Paolo Brandao

Albino Animals Rat
The condition also has social effects, which is problematic when it comes time to mate. Many albino animals are outcast by their peers. Pixabay

Snowflake Albino Gorilla
As such, numerous albino animals live in captivity. Snowflake, featured above, is the only documented gorilla with albinism. He was born in the wild, but captured and kept at the Barcelona Zoo. Wikimedia Commons

Albino Wallaby
This is Betty, the resident albino wallaby at the Columbus Zoo, in Powell, Ohio. Wikimedia Commons

Albino Penguin
The only known albino penguin, Snowdrop, was born in 2002 at England’s Bristol Zoo. Wikimedia Commons

Cute White Koala
There is only one documented albino koala, and his name is Onya-Birri. Wikimedia Commons

Water Buffalo
Some cultures worship albino animals, and believe that they are good luck charms.Wikimedia Commons\

Albino Kangaroo
Native American tribes harbored significant reverence for albino animals, for instance. Whiteness was not seen as a symbol of "purity" as in Western cultures, but wisdom.Wikimedia Commons

Despite differences, many of these tribes abided by one common principle: the albino animal is not to be killed.Wikipedia

If the albino animal were killed, its killer would be cursed. The underlying thinking was that, as its coloring makes it an easier mark, it is unfair game for the hunter.Pixabay

Enjoyed this look into the lives of albino animals? Check out the animal kingdom's most fascinatingly bizarre color mutations or witness astounding pictures of animal camouflage in action.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kelly, Erin. "Cute But Challenged: The Difficult Life Of Albino Animals.", October 3, 2021, Accessed June 25, 2024.