A rare albino penguin was born at a Polish zoo, and it’s super cute.
At Gdansk Zoological Gardens in Gdansk, Poland, a tiny miracle happened last December. An African penguin was born with highly unusual plumage: it was all white. It also had pink eyes, making it clear that this African penguin was born with albinism, a congenital defect that causes a lack of normal color pigmentation.
Albinism is extremely rare and is estimated to occur once in every 1,800 births in birds, although the specific number for penguins isn’t known. It’s much less likely to find albino animals in the wild as they tend to make ideal targets for predators thanks to the obvious white coloration. In addition, penguin parents are far more likely to reject the albino child, and even if they don’t, the lack of pigmentation makes them vulnerable to skin diseases and parasites.
This particular penguin, who still hasn’t been named or sexed, luckily didn’t have to worry about any of that. They were never rejected by their parents, and thanks to the help of zoo staff, has received regular medical checkups to make sure their lack of pigmentation isn’t cause for any concern.
Zookeepers will eventually determine the penguin’s gender once they perform DNA testing. For now, Gdansk's albino penguin is 1.1 lbs, 11 inches tall, and friends with two other penguins who don’t seem to mind their blanched companion.
The albino penguin made their world debut last Friday and will eventually join a flock of around 70 individuals at Gdansk.
African penguins are very similar to Magellanic penguins in South America, at least in terms of coloration, and the two can easily be confused. However, while Magellanic penguins are found all over South America, African penguins are only found along the coast of Namibia and South Africa where they’re considered an endangered species.
It’s estimated around 77,000 breeding pairs are left in the wild after having a population of over 1 million at the turn of the 20th century. Conservation efforts have prevented the species’ collapse, but African penguins are still threatened by climate change, oil spills, and overfishing.