A photography trap installed in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in the South-West of China has recently snapped an albino giant panda. This is the first captured image of this phenomenon.
Giant Pandas are one of many threatened animals. Today, there are supposedly less than a thousand Giant Pandas living in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Chinese biologists have recently installed movement sensitive, photography traps in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in an attempt to protect this threatened animal. The nature reserve is located in the Sichuan region of China home to 30% of the world’s population of Giant Pandas. However researchers had a shock when looking through their collected photographs. They had unsuspectingly managed to capture the first image of an albino Giant Panda!
The panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was spotted in April 2019 in the heart of the mountains at around 2,000 m. According to a press statement published by the local conservation authority the animal seemed to be in good health. The animal’s sex could not be determined but researchers estimated that it is between one and two years old.
— CNN France (@CNNFrancePR) 27 mai 2019
(An albino Giant Panda photographed for the first time in a reserve)
Following its development
Albinism is a genetic condition which upsets the normal production of melanin pigments. Accept a greater sensitivity to sunlight, the condition doesn’t directly affect the body structure nor the physiological health of the animal. Nestled in the mountains, is safe from any sun exposure risks. Nevertheless its lightly coloured coat could be a disadvantage as it is more visible to predators.
As albinism is a hereditary condition, researchers also confirm that there is certainly a “whitening mutant gene” in the Giant Panda population in Wolong. Researchers are looking to intensify their surveillance of the region by installing even more infrared cameras so that they can follow the albino panda and its development. Scientists have also expressed a hope of seeing a next generation. “If we can capture the next generation, the value of the research will be even greater,” they stated to the press.
Secret behind the black and white coat
Only recently, researchers have managed to “understand” why pandas have a black and white coat. According to another study, published in Behavioural Ecology journal, the animal developed in way in which it blended into two different environments. While situated in the mountainous regions of central China, it needed to adapt to the environments of both the colder and warmer months.
Pandas have a vegetarian diet based primarily on on bamboo shoots. As this food source is very difficult to digest, pandas must stay active all year round. Unlike other bears, pandas don’t hibernate but instead need to find enough food to satisfy their energetic needs for the colder months. According to researchers, having a white face and stomach allows the animal to blend into a snowy environment to avoid predators in winter. At the same time, the black patches of their body allow them to hide away in the shade of tropical bamboo groves during the hotter months.