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White Panda

Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve Administration released the first photo of an albino giant panda on the 25th. The photo was taken from a wild infrared trigger camera, at an altitude of 2,000 meters in the protected area.

The image of giant panda was taken in mid-April. That picture clearly displayed the unique morphological characteristics of this panda.

The panda’s hair is white, its claws are white, and its eyes are red. It was passing through the lush, native and deciduous broad-leaved forest. According to an analysis of experts, from the external features shown in the photo, it is an albino panda. Judging from its size, this is a sub-adult or young panda, around 1 to 2 years old.

According to a member of the IUCN Bear Expert Group and a researcher at the Peking University, School of Life Sciences, the phenomenon of “albino” is widespread in various groups of vertebrate animals, although it is rare. Usually, due to genetic mutations, melanin cannot be synthesized normally in animals. 

Thus, it would appear as white, yellowish white or light yellow in its external form. The pure mutation does not affect the normal body structure and physiological functions of the animal.

In addition to the fact that the animal is more likely to be found in the environment and its body is more sensitive to direct sunlight, albinism usually has no significant effect on its activity and reproduction.

The panda taken by Wolong showed that there was an albinism gene in the giant panda population in Wolong. From the photo, this panda is physically strong, and its gait is steady, and it is confirmed from the side that the mutation may not affect the normal life of this panda.

“Albinism” is a recessive gene that can be inherited. Each animal has two sets of genes from both parents. Only when the gene from both the parent and the mother is a mutant, the individual would show an “albino” trait. According to the current data, it is impossible to determine the gender of this panda.

When this albino panda and the normal wild pandas (that is, the ordinary “black and white” pandas) that do not carry the mutated gene successfully breed, the external form of the first generation of panda babies will still be in ordinary black and white, but the body will carry an albino gene.

Then, when two pandas carrying the albino gene re-breed and reproduce, there might be a mutation of genes in the offsprings, which will appear as albino in the external form. In the giant panda population of Wolong, further observation in the wild is required in the protected area to determine whether the albino genes will be passed down to the next generations.

In order to find out the composition and structure of different ecosystem species in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan, and to understand the utilization of habitat of different species, Wolong Nature Reserve launched the monitoring and research work of Wolong Wild Animals in 2018.

In the different ecosystems of the whole area, seven sample plots were selected, each of which was 20 square kilometers, and an infrared trigger camera was set up to monitor the distribution and dynamic changes of wild animals in the area. The photo of the albino giant panda came from one of the monitoring plots.

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