Quantcast

Rare White Panda Photographed for First Time Ever

Animals

Infrared camera image taken on April 20, 2019 shows an all-white giant panda in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Xinhua / Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images

An all-white panda has been documented and photographed for the first time ever, The New York Times reported Monday.

The animal was recorded in April by an infrared wildlife camera in Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's southwestern Sichuan province, local authorities said.

"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.


Scientists concluded that the panda's unusual coloring was caused by albinism, a rare genetic condition, The Guardian reported. Here's what that means, according to National Geographic:

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Danielle Nierenberg and Katherine Walla

As the holiday season ramps up for many across the world, Food Tank is highlighting 15 children's books that will introduce young eaters, growers and innovators to the world of food and agriculture. Authors and organizations are working to show children the importance — and fun — of eating healthy, nutritious and delicious food, growing their own produce, and giving food to others in need.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Purple cabbage, also referred to as red cabbage, belongs to the Brassica genus of plants. This group includes nutrient-dense vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Lauren Wolahan

For the first time ever, the UN is building out a roadmap for curbing carbon pollution from agriculture. To take part in that process, a coalition of U.S. farmers traveled to the UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain this month to make the case for the role that large-scale farming operations, long criticized for their outsized emissions, can play in addressing climate change.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

In recent years, acai bowls have become one of the most hyped-up health foods on the market.

They're prepared from puréed acai berries — which are fruits grown in Central and South America — and served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.

Read More Show Less
Investing in grid infrastructure would enable utilities to incorporate modern technology, making the grid more resilient and flexible. STRATMAN2 / FLICKR

By Elliott Negin

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.

Read More Show Less