What is the likelihood of birth in your zoo of an albino African Penguin? Virtually nil. That's why there was a lot of cause for celebration when these exceptionally unusual birds were born in a Polish zoo lately. It's likely the only one in captivity of its kind.
The zoo, of course, shared the bird's photos and it quickly became an Internet sensation. There are fears for the bird, though, through the cheers, as it would be the first to be set on by predators – and its colleagues might also reject it.
Humble and tentative
Pictures timidly and tentatively demonstrate the bird making its way out of its cage with two other members of the flock as if almost attempting to hide. It is kept apart from the other animals at the zoo except for four grown-up flock members playing with their white playmate.
Its disease is a congenital malfunction causing complete or some pigment shortage, leading in a white coat and pink eyes. It stands out among its black-and-white friends in the flock like a sore thumb, hence the attraction for it by predators to gun for it. When allowing the bird out of its enclosure, zookeepers are highly vigilant.
Only for short periods and in a demarcated area near its enclosure is permitted out. While it's out, several employees guard its presence, watching eagle eyes over it. It's guardians, the adult penguins in the enclosure who take care of the bird, are also very nearby.
The coloring of the bird also prevents employees from classifying their gender. Typically, only the darker color patterns can clarify the gender of a penguin. Once it has matured, when its gender is revealed, it will undergo DNA testing.
The zoo kept the bird's birth news confidential for three months. It is because the prognosis in infancy for albino penguins is not good. Most do not survive infancy because they are highly prone to illness and are dismissed by other flock members.
Zookeepers carefully selected adult birds (two of whom are parents of the bird) who instantly took them to the albino penguin and kept them together with two other friendly chicks in an enclosure to protect the albino.
Good opportunity to survive
By taking these steps, the bird is expected to have a significant opportunity for survival.
The only known albino penguin is snowdrop. Born in 2002, in England's Bristol Zoo, he was one of the few albinos who lived long enough to achieve adulthood. However, he unexpectedly died in August 2004 due to unknown causes.
That's why our Polish friend is practically 24/7 under veterinary care. Together with this care and the sense of well-being generated by the four adults and two other chicks who are their playmates, the zoo is pulling out all stops in attempting to get the bird to safely achieve adulthood and hoping that it can live a complete and productive life.