Wed, May 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Sichuan releases first-ever photo of an albino panda

The Guardian, BEIJING

A handout photo issued on Monday by Wolong National Nature Reserve shows an infrared camera image of an all-white giant panda in the reserve in China’s Sichuan Province on April 20.

Photo: EPA-EFE

A nature reserve in China has captured what is believed to be the world’s first image of an albino panda.

The Wolong national nature reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan released a photo taken on April 20 of an all-white giant panda in the wild, crossing through a forest.

Scientists later determined the animal’s appearance — its all–white body and reddish eyes — were caused by albinism, a rare genetic condition in which there is a total or partial lack of the skin pigment melanin.

The reserve said in a statement that the panda appeared “physically strong, with a steady gait,” evidence that the condition had not affected its normal functioning.

Local researchers said they believed the panda to be between one and two years old.

The sex could not be determined from the photo, taken by an infrared camera installed in December last year to monitor wildlife in the area.

Spotting the albino panda is incredibly rare, given how infrequently albinism manifests. The giant panda, native to China, is the rarest member of the bear species, with fewer than 2,000 remaining in the wild.

Brown pandas, whose fur color is also considered to be caused by a mutation, have previously been sighted in China’s Qingling mountains in Shaanxi Province.

Scientists from the China Conservation and Research Center said the photo suggested the recessive albinism gene is present in the local panda population in Wolong.

Whether the gene would be passed down would require further monitoring of the field site, the reserve said.

Authorities also said the reserve would install more infrared cameras to track the albino panda and its development.

Scientists also expressed hope of seeing its offspring.

“If we can capture the next generation, the research value will be even greater,” the researchers said.

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