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African sun puts albino jumbo at risk

Published Jan 12, 2005

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The little one kept on rolling in the mud, as if trying to disguise its strange colour with the dirt.

The baby elephant, spotted among a herd in the southern part of the Kruger National Park, could be an albino or white elephant.

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The baby is believed to be about a month old, and an older sibling and its mother seemed very protective of it.

Sadly, however, it is most probably doomed as it would be susceptible to the harsh African sun.

Odette Joubert and her husband, who have a house on the banks of the Crocodile River near Hectorspruit overlooking the Kruger Park, came across the little elephant.

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"Yesterday morning (Monday) we were having breakfast when I saw the herd of elephants come to drink. As they were drinking I noticed a very light one, then they disappeared."

"Later we were lounging around the pool, and I saw the same herd and I grabbed my camera," Joubert said.

She said the herd came so close to the fence she was able to take pictures which clearly show the elephant's pink eyes and white eyelashes.

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Joubert said the elephants, especially the mother and an older sibling were very protective.

"The baby kept on trying to roll in mud. Maybe he knows he is different," she said.

Joubert said she had spoken to a ranger in the park who said that albino elephants were very rare and that they might try and collar one of the herd to keep track of the group.

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"They are very, very rare," said Dr Ian Whyte specialist scientist for large herbivores in the park.

"Sometimes you see some elephants with patches, particularly behind their ears, that don't have pigment. Some time ago I saw a newborn, who was pink, from a helicopter when we were doing a census.

"Maybe they are more common than we think they are but they just don't survive. It would struggle in the African sun," he said. - Environment Reporter.

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