by Jade Small
Being in the right place at the right time can be particularly rewarding when visiting the Kruger National Park in South Africa as Nicki Coertze can attest to when he spotted a little white baby elephant with pink ears. Coetrze has been visiting the park since childhood and knew this was a rare sighting.
The herd was drinking at a watering hole and the little one stood out like a beacon against the grey herd. Animals usually blend in with their environment, not so for this baby. A true albino usually has pink eyes which could not be confirmed in Coertze’s photographs but it does seem to have its eyes partially closed as if trying to avoid the strong light.
Albino wildlife often suffer from poor eyesight, their eyes and skin being very sensitive to the harsh African sun. Sightings of albino animals are rare, mainly due to their being such easy targets for prey.
Experts at the park explained the difference between a true albino and a “white” (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.”
Although white elephants are rare, they often appear white but a closer look shows a light reddish brown colour which turns pink when wet and they have light coloured eyelashes and toenails.
Images ©Nicki Coertze/ Caters News