The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Rare White Panda Photographed for First Time Ever
An all-white panda has been documented and photographed for the first time ever, The New York Times reported Monday.
"You are looking at the first-ever photo of a WHITE giant panda in the world," The People's Daily China announced in a tweet Saturday.
In mammals, albinism occurs when an individual inherits one or more mutated genes from both parents that interfere with the body's production of melanin, the main pigment that determines the color of skin, fur, and eyes. The production of melanin occurs within melanocytes, specialized cells that are present but not fully functional in albino mammals.
Non-mammal animals can also be albino, but because they can produce other pigments in addition to melanin, they may not appear fully white. Even albino mammals can show some color if their melanin-making genes haven't been totally damaged.
The condition has been recorded in other species of bear, according to The New York Times, and brown and white pandas have been spotted in the northwestern Chinese region of Qinling, but this all-white panda is unique.
"I personally think it's quite random for it to be discovered, since albinism manifests itself so infrequently," Dr. Li Sheng, who works on the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told The New York Times. "This was recorded just in time."
Albinism does not impact the overall health of animals, but it can make it harder for them to survive, according to National Geographic. That's because albino animals often have poor eyesight, which makes finding food more difficult. They also sometimes have a hard time finding mates and can stand out to predators or poachers. This panda seems to be doing well, however.
"The panda looked strong and his steps were steady, a sign that the genetic mutation may not have quite impeded its life," Li said, according to CNN.
The panda is one to two years old, and the photographs did not reveal its sex, researchers said, according to The Guardian.
Albinism is a recessive condition, which means both parents must have the gene and pass it onto their offspring in order for it to manifest. Scientists from the China Conservation and Research Centre therefore believe the condition must be present in the Wolong panda population. Authorities plan to install more cameras to track the panda's movements and see if it passes the trait on to its children.
"If we can capture the next generation, the research value will be even greater," researchers said, as The Guardian reported.
There are around 1,900 giant pandas in the wild, a 2016 report from the IUCN found. Because of conservation efforts by the Chinese government, the species' status was changed from "endangered" to "vulnerable" in the same report. The Chinese government, however, objected to the reclassification, arguing that pandas are still imperiled because their habitat is limited to disconnected wilderness areas, making it harder for them to reproduce, The New York Times reported.
- Wolong Giant Panda Nature Reserve (Wenchuan County) - 2019 All ... ›
- Gengda Wolong Panda Center | Pandas International ›
- Rare all-white panda spotted in China reserve: State media | News ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.
Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.
The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.
By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia
In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."
Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.