Wolong National Reserve recently released a photo showing a rare albino giant panda crossing through a verdant forest in the southwestern province of Sichuan in China. The shot was taken by an infrared motion-triggered camera installed 2,000 meters above sea level by scientists in December last year.
The camera was triggered by the panda’s movement as it passed by in early April. The Chinese nature reserve believes this to be the world’s first documented sighting of an albino giant panda.
After researchers studied the picture they noticed that it lacks the usual black fur on its limbs and ears and around its eyes, and it has reddish eyes and white claws, which are considered to be caused by albinism which is a rare genetic mutation that generates a total or partial lack of the skin pigment melanin.
Spotting this type of panda is incredibly rare, given how infrequently albinism manifests and especially since there are fewer than 2,000 giant pandas remaining in the wild. The bear appeared to be physically strong, indicating that the condition is not affecting its normal life and could not establish the panda’s sex from the photo, but they assumed it to be about 1 to 2 years old judging from its size.
The discovery of this bear indicates there might be a mutant gene in the giant panda population in the reserve, meaning that could lead to more albino cubs in the reserve in the future.
However, the mutations is recessive, therefore it can only be inherited if both parents carry the gene. Authorities are saying that the reserve wants to install more infrared cameras to track the albino panda and its development, with scientists expressing hope of seeing its offspring: “If we can capture the next generation, the research value will be even greater.”