World's First Wild Albino Giant Panda Caught On Camera
An infra-red camera in China picked up something very special the other day. A rare fully albino giant panda was seen roaming through the bamboo forests for what experts think is the very first time ever.
The picture was taken at the Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is high up in the hills of southwestern China's Sichuan province.
Wildlife experts reckon that the panda can only be about one or two years old, and that this is the first time that an albino panda has been seen roaming around the wild.
Now, staff at the nature reserve are hoping to set up more cameras in the area so that they can get a better picture of what life is really like for this rare critter.
Li Sheng, a researcher for Beijing's Peking University, told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV: "The panda looked strong and his steps were steady, a sign that the genetic mutation may not have quite impeded its life."
Cute as it is, it is easy to forget that albinism is actually a genetic mutation in which the animal lacks skin pigment or melanin and therefore must face a completely different set of challenges to other pandas.
For example, even though pandas are normally black and white, this one is obviously completely white and therefore more at risk as it is more visible.
It is often the case that albinism causes animals - and humans, too - to have poorer eyesight.
This case is particularly important because of the relevant threat of extinction that giant pandas face.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the giant panda is vulnerable, and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature has estimated that there may be as few as 1,864 left in the wild.
That is what makes capturing a glimpse of this albino giant panda more important and special.
It's impossible to tell which sex the panda featured in the video is, but it does give the suggestion that the albino gene is present in the panda population in the Wolong Nature Reserve at least.
Following this landmark discovery, researchers at the site and scientists at the China Conservation and Research Centre want to continue to monitor the area to figure out whether or not this gene will be passed down through the generations.
The researchers said: "If we can capture the next generation, the research value will be even greater."
Featured Image Credit: CNN