Stunning Albino and Leucistic Animals: Living in the Wild vs. Captivity

Updated on September 29, 2017
Casey White profile image

Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

No color necessary.  This lion, I'm sure, causes a jaw-dropping reaction for anyone who sees it.  When I ran across this photo, it was labeled as an "albino lion" but it's actually a leucistic lion.  Photographer is unknown.
No color necessary. This lion, I'm sure, causes a jaw-dropping reaction for anyone who sees it. When I ran across this photo, it was labeled as an "albino lion" but it's actually a leucistic lion. Photographer is unknown. | Source

Inability to Camouflage is Problematic in Nature

There are several basic animal behaviors and abilities that allow them to survive in the wild, but none any more crucial than their ability to become camouflaged. Camouflage, however, is not easy for animals that have either albinism or leucism, so they normally don't live very long out in Mother Nature's territory.

Animals often remain in areas away from white backgrounds where they would stand out to predators, and prefer to remain in areas where they easily blend in with the environment, going (hopefully) unnoticed. Unfortunately, the trick of camouflage is one also used by predators, in an effort to sneak up on unsuspecting prey.

This leucistic junco has normal-looking eyes and its appearance is typical of birds that are affected by this genetic disorder.
This leucistic junco has normal-looking eyes and its appearance is typical of birds that are affected by this genetic disorder. | Source

The Difference Between Albino and Leucistic Animals

Many people confuse albinism with leucism in animals, but each condition has its own unique characteristics.

Albinism is a congenital defect where the result is a complete lack of melanin, which is needed in order for the skin, feather, eyes and hair of an animal to have color. As a result, the affected animals are almost always completely white with pink-looking eyes (the red of the retina is actually visible through the iris in the eye).

If an animal is completely white but has normal-looking eyes, this is the universal type of leucism. Animals that have leucism, which is a genetic disorder, sometimes only have a partial loss of the pigmentation and display splotchy areas of white on their bodies, known as the "pied" or "piebald" effect. Not all of their cells develop properly and the affected animal is incapable of producing pigments in all areas of their bodies, except in their eyes, which appear to be normal.

If you prefer a white peacock, as well as one with colors, you will love this one which is half of each.  In my interpretation, this is not an albino peacock, but rather a peacock with leucism, as the eyes are normal and not pink.
If you prefer a white peacock, as well as one with colors, you will love this one which is half of each. In my interpretation, this is not an albino peacock, but rather a peacock with leucism, as the eyes are normal and not pink.

Albino Alligators in Captivity

Because albino animals lack melanosomes (clusters of melanin) - necessary to allow beneficial rays to enter while blocking the harmful rays of the sun - facilities provide special accommodations for them.

The Knoxville (Tennessee) Zoo, for example has created heavily shaded habitats with special heat lamps for their albino alligators, which have delicate skin that can easily be sunburned, causing them to become ill. These animals thrive in captivity because of the special care they are given.

The impressive Newport (Kentucky) Aquarium also is home to two very rare albino alligators, which they hope will eventually mate. Apparently, there are only about a dozen or so albino alligators in the world.

A leucistic white alligator can be seen in the River Journey Building at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. According to Dave Collins, curator of forests for the facility (quote taken from the aquarium's website): “The occurence of white alligators, both leucistic and albino, is extremely rare. White hatchlings normally only survive a few days in the wild as their coloration makes them highly susceptible to predation and possible damage from sunlight.”

Gatorland in Orlando, Florida has a leucistic alligator that is all white except for his eyes, which are blue.

Albino Crocodile and Leucistic Alligator

This is a photo of an albino crocodile. Many albino crocodiles and alligators starve to death in the wild because of their lack of ability to conceal themselves.
This is a photo of an albino crocodile. Many albino crocodiles and alligators starve to death in the wild because of their lack of ability to conceal themselves.
This is a leucistic alligator.  His eyes are blue, which is indicative of leucism rather than albinism.
This is a leucistic alligator. His eyes are blue, which is indicative of leucism rather than albinism.

Photographer/Conservationist Builds Shelter for Albino Squirrel

You can read about photographer Victor Manuel Fleites Escobar and how he built a shelter south of England for the rare albino squirrel pictured below by clicking here.

Albino Squirrels

The township of Kenton, Tennessee is said to have a population of 200 albino squirrels like this one.  Three other towns in the U.S. refer to themselves as being the "home of the white squirrels."
The township of Kenton, Tennessee is said to have a population of 200 albino squirrels like this one. Three other towns in the U.S. refer to themselves as being the "home of the white squirrels." | Source

The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society

Two students at the University of Texas at Austin, Dustin Ballard and Gary Chang, started the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society (ASPS) in 2001 to celebrate a longstanding legend at the college that seeing an albino squirrel before a test was good luck.

The group was also formed because of their recognition of the dwindling population of the beautiful white squirrels on the campus. The campus squirrels, although not in captivity, are fed and watched closely by the students there, which provides them as much protection from predators as is possible.

When word of the organization began to spread, several other colleges across the United States and the world started forming their own chapters.

To read more about how to start your own chapter of ASPS and see photos of some of the University of Texas campus squirrels, check out their website here: http://www.albinosquirrel.com.

The Albino Squirrel Preservation Society's Creed

"I pledge to uphold the objects of the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society, to foster compassion and goodwill towards albino squirrels, and to dedicate myself to the protection of all squirrels, especially those that are albino."

Owls Depend on Camouflage in the Wild

This owl is able to cleverly disguise itself in an attempt to avoid predators such as eagles, which have eyesight much stronger than that of the average human - four to eight times stronger, in fact.
This owl is able to cleverly disguise itself in an attempt to avoid predators such as eagles, which have eyesight much stronger than that of the average human - four to eight times stronger, in fact.
This leucistic owl living in the wild could never camouflage itself as well as the owl in the photograph above, which blends perfectly into a tree.
This leucistic owl living in the wild could never camouflage itself as well as the owl in the photograph above, which blends perfectly into a tree. | Source

Moby Dick: Albino Whale, or Leucistic?

Herman Melville's classic tale of Moby Dick was likely based on a story that he had read by Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799-1858): Mocha Dick: Or the White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal, of the Pacific, a tale that the author was said to have heard during his travels.

The fictional story of Moby Dick was written long before the world wide web made people aware of the differences between albinism and leucism in animals, so I guess we will never know which one applied to the sperm whale that killed everyone in the book except for the narrator.

A Poll for Readers

Before reading this article, did you know the difference between leucistic and albino animals?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)