58-year-old Nicki Coertze has been visiting the Kruger National Park in South Africa since he was a child. Every year, he spends around 30 days a year there. As amazing as it is each time he goes, this last visit was especially remarkable. For the first time ever, he saw a little white baby albino elephant with pink ears! This rare sight completely took his breath away.
He felt so lucky to be there at that moment on a safari with his family. They were there right in time to witness this unique elephant baby drinking from a watering hole alongside its mother and family. It was such a beautiful sight – the baby’s pink-tinted skin standing out against a sea of gray African elephants. It’s not every day that you see an albino elephant, and Coertze knew this was an exceptional experience. He immediately, started to capture it in photographs.
Interestingly, Coertze noted that the baby did not appear to get any special attention. It was treated just like any other member of the herd.
The Harsh Reality Of Albino Animals
In the wild, animals are naturally meant to blend in with their habitats. If they don’t, they are a flashing target to predators. So, as cute as this albino elephant may be, what makes it so special also puts it in grave danger. Furthermore, their pink eyes and skin are very sensitive to sunlight.
According to Dr. Ian Whyte, a specialist in large herbivores at Kruger Park, albino wildlife is more common than many people think. Unfortunately, they are believed to be extremely rare because many don’t survive very long.
Just A White Elephant
While the baby is believed to be an albino, it is still unclear if he is a true albino or a white elephant, which is also rare nonetheless. To know for sure they’d have to see if it’s eyes are pink. However, none of the photographs offer a clear enough image of the baby’s eyes because they are partially closed in all of the pictures. Albino wildlife is known to have weak eyesight so this behavior could mean that it is a true albino and it was trying to shield Its sensitive eyes from the sun.
Experts at Kruger National Park explain:
“It is unclear whether the calf is a true albino or ‘white’ elephant, but may be what is known as a leucistic animal. A true albino has no protective skin pigment, melanin, and has unpigmented pink eyes and white skin with no markings. A leucistic animal is white, but has dark eyes, and can have some pigmentation, producing ‘ghost’ markings.”
In some parts of the world an albino elephant is a sacred symbol of royal power. In Thailand, when a white elephant is discovered, it is presented to the king. They even have a ceremony in honor of the moment. In Myanmar it is a symbol of good fortune. In Hinduism, a flying albino elephant named Airavata is believed to belong to the God Indra who considers it the King of all elephants. In America, something that is spectacular or prestigious is refered to as a “white elephant”.