This rare pink hippo may look out of place against its herd – but it has developed unique ways of surviving in the wild. The hippo – which was pictured at a Kenyan nature reserve – is not an albino but is in fact leucistic, a condition where the pigmentation of cells in an animal fail to develop properly. Leucism can often affect an animal’s chances of survival as it makes them visible to predators – and also leaves them at risk of sunburn.
But hippos have an advantage in that they are big enough to defend themselves against attackers as well being able to use their sweat as sun screen. Leucism is a condition in which there is only partial loss of pigmentation, which results in white, pale, or patchy colouration of the skin but unlike albinism does not affect the eyes. It is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment not just melanin.
Leucism differs to albinism in that the latter is caused by the reduction of melanin production only and in mammals, results in white hair and pink eyes. While albinism causes mammal’s eyes to turn pink, leucism doesn’t affect eye colour – the condition causes hippos to have dappled pink skin but leaves the area around their eyes a greyish-brown. Hippos produce ‘sweat’ made of one red and one orange pigment, the red pigment contains an antibiotic, while the orange absorbs UV rays.
The hippo was captured by two French photographers in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in 2014 and was seen in 2015 at the Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. She was photographed by French couple Laurent and Dominique Renaud.