From large animals such as elephants and hippopotamus, to medium sized ones like deer, buffalos and down to birds namely; owls and robins, have not been spared this intriguing phenomenon of albinism. Also fish, spiders, snails and the common fly, are among those affected as well.
Albinism is the lack or low production of pigment called melanin which is the substance that colours up people and animals, just as it is sometimes absent in people, it can also be missing in animals too. Their eyes are often red or appear lighter shade due to the lack of colour that is responsible for giving our irises color . Also their eyes keep moving uncontrollable as they are very sensitive to light.
These beautiful animals are very much appreciated for their unique color – or no color if you like. Although usually their fur is white, this is not all the time , some albino animals have a bit of coloring in them but their shade of color is definitely paler than their counterparts’ and at times coloring can only be found at extreme parts of the body where body temperatures are lower as seen in Siamese cats. In plants, albinism occurs when there is no production of chlorophyll but the effect is similar to that in animals and people – a colorless plant.
Not all the albino animals are white, some have a lighter shade than the other animals of the same species. Why do you never see these animals, plants or insects, you may wonder? Because they stand out due to their colour, they are easy lunch for other animals. Plus the fact that these animals are so rare that is it believed that only one animal out of ten thousand is born without colour.
As a result, they became beautiful and rare!
Through scientific research, cells that are responsible for pigmentation are studied and experiments done to ascertain what causes the errors in the process that leads to albinism. Based on this research, cures for pigment disorders such as pigmented skin cancer and Addison’s diseases which causes the darkening of the skin, among numerous others can be processed and countless people helped by the discoveries made.
Next time you see an albino animal, plant or insect, think about their unusual beauty and preciousness in helping us live a better life.
Lois Nakibuuka is an educator and counsellor