A rare albino panda photographed in China
Albinism can also affect giant pandas as shown in a photograph taken in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China.
Albinism results from a genetic mutation that induces a deficit in the production of a pigment called melanin. It results in an absence of coloring of feathers, hair, hair but also eyes. If pandas are largely white colored, the disappearance of their famous black spots is an astonishing phenomenon that can however occur if the animal in question is albino.
A mutation that does not seem to disrupt its life
A photograph taken in the middle of the forest, at an altitude of about 2000 meters, on April 20, 2019 shows a rare giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). On the photograph, published by the Wolong National Nature Reserve, located in the Chinese province of Sichuan (southwestern China), the animal appears completely discolored. In addition, its eyes are red. This discovery shows that albinism also exists in the wild pandas of the region, reported the official media. And that the animal is able to survive in the wild. "Judging from the pictures, the panda is an albino animal between one and two years old," said Li Sheng, a Peking University researcher and bear specialist, whose comments were reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhua. "The panda looked strong and its footsteps were stable, a sign that the genetic mutation may not have disrupted its life much," Li added.
Survival of albino animals is generally not an easy thing. Their coloration makes them more visible to both prey and predators. This makes them more difficult to hunt and camouflage than their non-albino counterparts. Nevertheless, in the case of Panda, these factors are less present because the animal has relatively few predators, and it feeds mainly on bamboo shoots. However, albinism can be accompanied by health problems. Because the skin of albinos, due to the absence of pigments, is more sensitive to sunlight. This light can also negatively affect their eyesight.
Giant pandas reside in China in the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. They are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 2016, whereas before they were "endangered" of extinction. According to the organization, there are between 500 and 1,000 mature specimens in the wild. In 2017, American and Chinese researchers were concerned about the fragmentation of the territory of giant pandas, which leads to the isolation of certain populations, resulting in a risk of local extinction.
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