What do your blue eyes and albino animals have in common? Both lack melanin! Melanin is one of the pigments that determine color in skin, fur, and eyes. While incredibly captivating to look at, albino animals can struggle in the wild. Their lighter colored fur makes it more difficult to camouflage and attract mates. Albinism also often comes with poor eyesight that makes it difficult to hunt. Similar to albinism is leucism, which refers to the loss of color. Where albinism is the complete inability to produce melanin, leucism means that some melanin is still produced. An albino animal will appear entirely white with often pinkish eyes. A leucistic animal will have patches of white where color was lost, or be unusually white. Here are a couple examples of some unusually white African animals. 

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK – File:White_lion_(3867201089).jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45881386

1: White lions 

White lions are leucistic animals found in South Africa. White lions have been a part of African Folklore for hundreds of years. They appear in mythology as children of the Sun God, and most people believed they only existed in stories. Before visiting South Africa, read the incredible stories of the white lion. Read about how they were thought to be a gift from God and how a star brought a white lion to Queen Numbi 400 years ago. And then, when you visit South Africa, you will see those stories come to life before your eyes. 

2: White Giraffes 

Extremely rare leucistic giraffes have been spotted in Kenya and Tanzania. In fact, they are so rare that conservationists believe there is only one left! White giraffes took the world by storm when they were first spotted in Kenya in 2016. It is important to note that white giraffes are not a separate species of giraffe. The last white giraffe on Earth is a part of the declining African population of giraffes. By reading this blog, you are already helping the population by making yourself aware of the decline. When you visit the beautiful African landscape, keep the giraffes in mind and discover how each and every one of us plays a role in their survival. 

Image: By gary Whyte – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132471

While leucism and albinism are caused by a decrease or lack of melanin production, melanism is caused by excess production of melanin. Any guesses on what that would do to an animal? It would result in an entirely black animal! Africa is home to a diverse arrangement of animals of every color, shape, and size. It is no surprise that Kenya is home to a rare black leopard. She was discovered in early 2018 and photographed to be the first scientific record of a melanistic leopard. Black leopards have been reported in Kenya for decades, but this young female was the first to be photographed in nearly a century. Black cats are often thought to be omens of evil, but if you ever spot one of these rare beauties, count yourself one as of the lucky ones.