After being photographed about a month ago, the first-ever documented images of an albino giant panda have finally been released. China’s Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve Administration shared photos of the all-white panda on May 25.
The unique panda is about 1 or 2 years old, the nature reserve said in a statement on its website. The photos were taken by an infrared trigger camera, which captured the panda in its habitat at an altitude of about 6,561 feet. The panda has white fur, white claws and red eyes, leading experts to determine it is an albino.The phenomenon of “whitening” is rare, but can occur in numerous groups of vertebrate animals, according to experts from IUCN Bear Expert Group and the Peking University School of Life Science, the statement reads. This genetic mutation is caused when melanin cannot be synthesized normally, resulting in an external color a shade between white and light yellow. The color does not affect the animal’s activity or reproduction but it could make it sensitive to direct sunlight, the nature reserve writes.
The albino giant panda filmed at the Wolong National Nature Reserve is the first of its kind to be recorded in the wild. This discovery indicates there is “whitening” mutant gene in the giant panda population in Wolong. This particular panda appears strong, so the whitening likely doesn’t affect its way of life.The mutation is a recessive gene that could be inherited. It is impossible to tell the gender of this panda, but if it successfully breeds offspring with a normal black-and-white panda, their babies will look normal, but will carry the gene.The camera that captured the first-of-its-kind image was installed in December, after Wolong National Nature Reserve decided to set up various infrared cameras to monitor the wildlife in the region. The nature reserve will now install even more cameras to continue to monitor the albino panda and track its growth, development, activity, and community relationship, Duan Zhaogang, secretary of the Wolong National Nature Reserve Administration of Sichuan Province and secretary of the Wolong District Party Committee, said in the statement.
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