What are the chances of an albino African Penguin being born in your zoo? Virtually nil.
That’s why when of these extremely rare birds was born in a Polish zoo recently, there was much cause for celebration. It is probably the only one of its kind in captivity.
Naturally, the zoo shared pictures of the bird and it rapidly became an Internet sensation.
Through the cheers, though, there are fears for the bird as it would be the first to be set upon by predators – and it could also be rejected by its peers.
Timid and tentative
Pictures show the bird timidly, and tentatively, making its way out of its enclosure with two other members of the flock, as if it was almost trying to hide. At the zoo, it is kept apart from the other birds except for four adult members of the flock who could think of nothing better than playing with their white playmate.
Its condition is a congenital malfunction which causes total or some lack of pigment, resulting in a white coat and pink eyes. It obviously stands out like a sore thumb among its black-and-white mates in the flock, hence the attraction by predators to gun for it. Zookeepers are extremely vigilant when letting the bird out of its enclosure.
It’s only allowed out for short periods and in a demarcated zone close to its enclosure. While it’s out, a number of staff guard its presence, watching over it with eagle eyes. It’s bodyguards, the adult penguins that take care of the bird in the enclosure, also stand very close by.
The bird’s coloring also disallows staff from classifying its gender. Normally, a penguin’s gender can only be clarified on the darker color patterns. Once it has matured, it will undergo DNA testing when its gender will be revealed.
News of the birth of the bird was kept secret by the zoo by three months. The reason for this is that the prognosis for albino penguins in infancy is not good. Most don’t survive infancy as they are extremely susceptible to disease and are rejected by other members of the flock.
Zookeepers carefully selected adult birds (two of whom are the bird’s parents) that took to the albino penguin immediately and kept them, and two other friendly chicks, together in an enclosure so the albino would always be protected.
Good chance at survival
It is hoped by that by taking these measures that the bird will have a good chance at survival.
Snowdrop is the only other known albino penguin. He was born in 2002, at the Bristol Zoo in England, and was one of the few albinos that lived long enough to reach adulthood. In August 2004, though, he suddenly died due to unknown causes.
This is why our Polish friend is under veterinary care practically 24/7. Together with this care, and the feeling of wellbeing that is generated by the four adults and two other chicks that are its playmates, the zoo is pulling out all stops in trying to get the bird to reach adulthood safely and hoping it can live a full and productive life.