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Kapama Game Reserves albino elephant, by Adine Roode

By 23rd Nov 2015 9 Comments

Picture credit: Marilize Minnaar – Kapama Staff

The albino elephant, also known as the white elephant, is a very rare type of elephant indeed. Often depicted as ‘white’, the albino elephant’s skin is soft and reddish-brown in colour, which turns to light pink when wet. This kind of elephant also has fair toenails and eyelashes.

While albinism is thought to be fairly common in Asian elephants, it is much less common in the larger African species. Experts are unsure of long-term survival rates for this kind of elephant. The blazing African sunlight could well cause blindness and skin problems for the calf. We noticed when the young calf was a few months old that he would normally stand in his mother’s shade.

In a 2009 BBC News article, Rebecca Morelle (a science reporter for BBC News) captured a pink elephant and quoted ecologist, Dr Mike Chase, who runs conservation charity Elephants Without Borders, “I have only come across three references to albino calves, which have occurred in Kruger National Park in South Africa.”

The Camp Jabulani Elephants on Kapama originated from the Kruger National Park and found their new home on the Kapama Game Reserve between 1992 and 1997. This calf is now about 5 years of age, and as you can see on the picture he still has the pink eyes and lashes.

Rebecca Morelle further quoted Mike Chase; “Already the two-to-three-month-old calf seems to be walking in the shade of its mother. This behaviour suggests it is aware of its susceptibility to the harsh African sun, and adapted a unique behaviour to improve its chances of survival”. He added, “I have learned that elephants are highly adaptable, intelligent and masters of survival.” I fully agree with this!

Adine Roode

MD, Camp Jabulani


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